Web community must realize IPv6 urgency

IPv4 is "near exhaustion", says official from regional Internet registry APNIC, urging Internet community to recognize need to move to IPv6 within two years.

MANILA--Although the global Internet infrastructure is not in immediate danger of collapsing from "near exhaustion" of the IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) standard, the online community must realize need to move to IPv6 in the next two years.

Paul Wilson, director general of the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), reiterated this alert during the group's meeting here this week, held in conjunction with APRICOT, the technical conference for Internet operators across the region. APNIC is one of the five regional Internet registries managing global Internet number distribution.

Wilson told reporters "false expectations" prevented IPv6 from being adopted on a larger global scale, despite the fact that the standard has been around for 10 years.

"The next two years will be critical for IPv6. Now is not the time to pull out," he said. "The difficulty of migrating is shown by the fact that there's no testbed... It's like changing the parts of an airplane while it is in the air."

He noted that IPv6's promise to support more Web addresses was simply not enough to convince Internet service providers (ISPs) and other industry players to make the switch.

Wilson explained: "People and companies were happy using their current Internet addresses so there was no urgent need for them to migrate to IPv6. But the fact is, IPv4 no longer has room for network growth that is essential for the evolution of the Internet."

While IPv4 is currently sufficient, Internet adoption is likely to spike significantly across the Asia-Pacific region because of its huge population. "Although [economic] growth is expected to slow down because of the current crisis, we haven't seen the Internet go into recession. That expansion can no longer be handled by IPv4 since it is near exhaustion," Wilson said.

"And while there's no actual killer application yet for IPv6, it is a thousand times more powerful than IPv4," he added.

The APNIC, which has 1,855 active members, runs programs to promote IPv6 withint the Internet community. "This is not rocket science; it's just that the industry has other priorities. ISPs, for instance, have chosen not to invest in IPv6," he said.

During its meeting here, he noted that APNIC members also discussed other "operational issues" plaguing the Internet industry, such as DNS (domain name system) security and the efficiency of Internet traffic.

One of the ideas broached included improving the architecture for "Internet exchange points", so ISPs can transmit Web traffic without passing through international links, particularly the United States, said Wilson.

Denis Villorente, director of the Advanced Science and Technical Institute (ASTI), the organizer of APRICOT, said during his presentation that the importance of having Internet exchange points was magnified by the Taiwan quake in 2006, which cut Internet traffic to and from the U.S. mainland.

"It's quite strange that some telcos and ISPs are still doing these things," Villorente said. "That has got to change, and a good way to realize that is to have Internet exchange points.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.