As Internet providers prepare for the transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), experts agree enterprises have their work cut out for them as the industry comes close to exhausting its supply of IPv4 addresses.
“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done, but they have all started, they know what they need to do, especially big companies in the private sector,” said Richard Jimmerson, chief information officer of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). “If they’re an Internet service provider, for instance, they are turning on thousands of new customers, and they know that they’re running out of IPv4 addresses as early as next year and they don’t want to have to stop turning on new customers. They want to continue doing that and they have to do it with IPv6.”
Jimmerson made his comments in an interview during a break in ARIN’s public policy meeting in Toronto, which wraps up Tuesday.
IPv4, which has a little more than four billion Internet Protocol addresses, was originally designed for the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, the predecessor to the public Internet that connected American military, university and research computer networks. IPv4 has a total limit of less than 4.3 billion addresses, or 2 to the power of 32.
This is projected to be insufficient in a couple of years as more devices other than computers – such as wireless phones and consumer appliances – also come with IP addresses.
IPv6 has 2 to the power of 128 addresses or 340 billion billion billion billion – with an extra 282,000 million billion billion left over.
Jimmerson said the depletion of IPv4 addresses was a major topic of discussion at the public policy meeting in Toronto.
“There was a policy passed that indicates the last block of IPv4 address space that ARIN receives from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority as we move towards depletion, we’re to reserve a certain percentage of that block of IPv4 address space that would be used by organizations or allocated to organizations in the future that can no longer make pure IPv4 deployments,” he said.
This, he added would be for organizations that are upgrading to IPv6 and need a small number of IPv4 addresses to translate to the IPv6 network.
Some providers, such as American cable provider Comcast Corp., (NASDAQ:CMCSA) have made their IPv6 conversion plans public, Jimmerson said. Those who have not gone public have, in most cases, are still working on the conversion.
“It’s important to note that when we do run out of IPv6 address space that everything that’s been deployed to that point continues to work just fine,” Jimmerson said. “It just means that there are no new IPv4 addresses for new growth on the Internet. The Internet is not going to fall apart or fail when we run out. It just means that we can’t continue growing with IPv4 like we’re used to.”
But other experts are using more urgent language.
“If you flicked a switch and went to IPv6 only, I think most organizations would be caught with their pants down,” said Branko Miskov, director of product management at Bluecat Networks Inc. of Toronto. “To be honest I don’t think (most) people have done more than the bare minimum,” in upgrading to IPv6.
Bluecat makes IP address management (IPAM) systems for service providers, government organizations and large corporations and plans to focus on supporting IPv6 this year.
“In North America, not that many people are moving to IPv6 right now,” Miskov said. “The rubber’s really going to hit the road mid next year and following. “
But IPv4 networks will still be here for quite some time, Jimmerson said.
“Internet service provides are going to be responsible for running dual stack networks, they’re going to continue to support IPv4 but they’re also going to be supporting the IPv6 network