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The Sky is Falling

December 10th, 2008


A lot has been written lately regarding the near imminent exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. As of 10-Dec-2008 the current projections are:

 

Projected IANA Unallocated Address Pool Exhaustion: 15-Mar-2011

Projected RIR Unallocated Address Pool Exhaustion: 05-May-2012

 

In plain English this means for the world will have no more new addresses by mid 2012; for the US the wall is hit in March 2011. The consequences of this are that after March 2011 if you have a device that needs a new IP address to connect to the Internet you won’t be able to. So, while the sky isn’t really falling today, how do we fix this? Simple, we convert to the new standard of IPv6. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and so has more than seventy nine billion billion billion times as many addresses as IPv4.

 

A survey was done between March 10 and March 25 2008 to capture Ipv6 penetration data in the ARIN Region (US, Canada, and portions of the Caribbean). The survey was conducted by AIRN (the American Registry for Internet Numbers, a nonprofit corporation that allocates Internet Protocol resources; develops consensus-based policies; and facilitates the advancement of the Internet through information and educational outreach) and CAIDA (the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis, provides tools and analyses promoting the engineering and maintenance of a robust, scalable global Internet infrastructure)

 

Over 200 respondents representing non-profit and for-profit enterprises including government, education, and research participated. More than half either had no plan or had not made significant progress on the plan they did have sighting lack of funds, lack of relevant experience, poor vendor support and no support for Ipv6 from their ISP/Cable provider. Elsewhere there are reports that show a high percentage of the current IPv6 deployments are broken or mis-configured.

 

My on-line search  for information from the leading cable/mso’s only turned up one publicly posted plan for conversion to IPv6 by a cable provider. In Comcast’s presentation from Alain Durand (Director – Ipv6 Architect, Office of the CTO) a detailed plan for incremental conversion was laid out. With the roll-out of “Triple Play” (video, broadband, telephony) the average household consumes 8-9 IP addresses for the devices. With almost 25 million customers this requires Comcast to manage 225 million IP addresses. Their presentation showed that new services creates a significantly higher demand for new IP addresses compared to increasing the number of subscribers. In July Comcast proposed a Dual-Stack Lite technology in a draft document published by the Internet Engineering Task Force as an incremental deployment to accommodate those cutomers who are slower to make the transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

 

Conversion to IPv6 raises many technical challenges including:

 

  • New expertise is required
  • New equipment required – dual stacks
  • Infrastructure architecture needs to be re-designed – changes to provisioning, management, MIB’s, SIP
  • Existing applications need to be changed – handling IP addresses, db storage, etc.

 

In an April 2008 posting by Geoff Huston & George Michaelson titled IPv6 Deployment: Just where are we?  They said

 

While much of the IPv6 technology set could be described as operationally ready, IPv6 hosts and service delivery platforms are being deployed, and a visible proportion of the network operating entities on the Internet are undertaking various forms of IPv6 deployments, the real level of uptake of IPv6 in the Internet today in terms of services and, by inference, packets, remains quite small. The metric that could be regarded as perhaps the best pointer of the current level of IPv6 usage is the web server access data, and the actual value of the relative rate of IPv6 use appears to be around 0.3% of the IPv4 use, or a relative rate of 3 per 1,000.”

 

 This means that to be protected from an any potential connectivity issues each business (and home) should be familiar their the ISP’s plan for supporting IPv6 and a survey of all of your devices should be done to determine if they are IPv6 compatible.

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