Adoption of IPv6 is now of paramount importance

4 Feb 2011

It’s goodbye to the web as we knew it and hello to a web with a bit more room. Last night the final batches of IPv4 web addresses were issued to regional bodies. The future now rests with IPv6.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) along with the Number Resources Organisation and the Internet Architecture Board announced last night that the supply of IPv4 addresses has been depleted.

The last two blocks  of IP addresses – some 33m – were assigned to the Regional Internet Registry for Asia Pacific.

Now to accelerate towards IPv6

“This is a major turning point in the on-going development of the internet,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and CEO. “No one was caught off guard by this. The internet technical community has been planning for IPv4 depletion for some time.

“But it means the adoption of IPv6 is now of paramount importance, since it will allow the internet to continue its amazing growth and foster the global innovation we’ve all come to expect.”

The new internet protocol, IPv6, will open up a pool of internet addresses that is a billion-trillion times larger than the total pool of IPv4 addresses (about 4.3bn), which means the number of IPv6 addresses is virtually inexhaustible for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has said it will join Google, Facebook and Yahoo! for a gigantic one-day test of IPv6 on 8 June.

“Considering the rapid proliferation of personal computers, smartphones, networked appliances and other connected devices around the world, it’s easy to conceive how we’ve already exhausted 4bn IPv4 addresses,” Bing programme manager Kevin Boske said.

Microsoft and other major technology companies have been working behind the scenes for years to outline a clear path to the next-generation internet protocol, IPv6.

“Although a complete migration will take years, we are hopeful that the vast majority of people will never notice the transition,” Boske added.

Irish contribution to development of IPv6

“The Irish IPv6 Task Force joins its affiliate organisations in the IPv6 Forum to call on the ICT industry to respond to the networking needs of the future. Our contribution towards the required migration to IPv6 is the set of online resources we have created, including two sets of videos of summits that provide detailed advice background context,” said Dr Mícheál Ó Foghlú, chair, Irish IPv6 Task Force and executive director research TSSG, Waterford IT.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority has allocated the last IP address blocks from the global IPv4 central address pool, ending all debates over when this would happen. Several months remain before regional registries consume all their remaining regional IPv4 address pools, with recent trends suggesting that Asia, Europe and North America will exhaust in that order within a month or two on either side of 1 July 2011. 

“The internet has become the global communication network, now is the time to sustain its growth and stability by integrating IPv6. IPv6 adds great value to IPv4,” said Dr Vint Cerf, honorary chair, IPv6 Forum.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years