The clock is ticking on Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) which experts say is bound to run out of online address space by next year. However, businesses and many domain name registrars seem bent on refusing to heed the call of Web experts to switch to new protocol IPv6.
“A lot of people are burying their head in the sand hoping the inevitable will not happen. Others refuse to be early adopters hoping to escape glitches or high price of technology,” said Paul Vixie, president of Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit corporation dedicated to developing and maintaining production quality open source reference implementation of core Internet protocols.
Vixie was one of the “Internet architects” who took part in Toronto panel discussion on the future of the Internet sponsored by the Canadian Internet registration Authority (CIRA). CIRA is the non-profit authority responsible for Canada’s dot-ca domain names.
Vixie is known for creating the first anti-spam blacklist MAPS RBL in 1997 and has been in charge of BIND, one of the most commonly used domain name system (DNS) server on the Internet and de-facto standard for Unix-like operating systems.
Others included in the panel were Chris O’Neill, country director of search engine Google for Canada, and John Demco, co-founder of Webnames.ca, a Web hosting firm based in Vancouver, B.C.
For 13 years starting in 1994, Demco was nearly singularly responsible for the growth of the dot-ca domain space. From his University of British Columbia office Demco allocated and administered dot-ca domain names at no charge to users on a voluntary basis.
It’s imperative that businesses move over the Websites to the new IPv6 protocol, according to Demco. “Eventually all new Internet users will be accessing the Web through IPv6. If your system is not connected to the new protocol, you will not be able to reach these new users,” he said.
“IPv6 was developed in the mid 1990s to replace IPv4. The protocol was specifically designed to take in current and future Internet user growth,” said Demco.
Out with the old in with the new
IPv4 is capable of sustaining roughly four billion unique IP addresses, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), one of the five Regional Internet Registries managing and distributing IP address space around the world.
“IPv4 addresses are depleting at an increasing rate. We’ll run our for certain sometime in 2011,” said Vixie of ISC. “While IPv4 is finite, we nearly have almost a limitless space in IPv6. There’s space there enough for 10 lifetimes.”
IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, as opposed to the 32-bit addresses used by IPv4. “Think of IPv4 as a golf ball and IPv6 as the sun, that’s the difference between the two,” said Vixie.
The Vatican leads in IPv6 adoption
The number of addresses available through IPv6 is roughly 3.4 followed by 38 zeros. That’s enough to assign trillions upon trillions of addresses, according to Jennifer Austin, senior manager of communications and marketing for CIRA
The rate of IPv6 adoption remains slow according to BGPmon.net, an online statistics and monitoring tool. Data collected in early this year indicate that adoption is only at four per cent.
The Vatican City State, BGPmon.net, said is the only country with a 100 per cent IPv6 adoption rate. The country is followed by Cuba at 60 per cent and Fiji at 50 per cent.
Canada matches the global average of four per cent followed by the U.S. at two per cent.
What does adoption entail for businesses?
IPv6 adoption can be very expensive. For instance telecommunication companies and regional registries such as CIRA would have to replace routers that could be worth more than $100,000.
Down the line, manufacturers of laptops, smartphones, wireless home routers and other connected hardware must ensure that they are able to run on IPv6 networks. Some end users may have to replace current devices.
Businesses that rely on the Internet need to send a message to their Internet Service Providers and registrars to get on the IPv6 wagon, said Demco.
“You have to ask them what they’re doing about moving to IPv6 and pressure them to adopt,” he said.
(With notes from Jennifer Kavur)