IP addresses dwindle as economies recover

IPv6 Taskforce focuses on adoption rather than conversion, for now

Against a background of dire warnings about an internet fast running out of IPv4 address space, Murray Milner, head of New Zealand’s IPv6 taskforce, is “very positive” that New Zealand will make it through to the world of IPv6 in an orderly and timely way.

At this stage the taskforce’s work is “fairly low-key”, he says. It has set up structures to work with four major industry sectors and has started a dialogue with the health sector. He declines to name the other three sectors; more will be revealed in the next few weeks, he says.

The recession brought about a brief slowdown in the relentless consumption of the remaining IPv4 address-space, says an update from the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), but economic recovery, particularly the growth of the Chinese economy is ramping up consumption again.

“New allocations performed during 2009 represent the equivalent of approximately 5 percent of the total IPv4 address space available,” says APNIC.

Nevertheless, there is little sign of panic.

“Conventionally, news of impending exhaustion of addresses would motivate some form of a last minute rush for addresses,” says APNIC chief scientist Geoff Huston. “This is not visible so far. The industry has been acting in a very calm and considered manner in terms of address demands.”

However, “our biggest enemy is complacency”, says Milner. Faced with a “soft and rubbery” target of IPv4 exhaustion rather than the hard deadline of date conversion for the year 2000, there is a danger that businesses will put off the vital step of adopting IPv6.

There is some resemblance to the Y2K process, in that IP address references in programs have to be sought out with similar care to the Y2K search for buried date references, he says.

The taskforce is currently talking about “adoption” rather than “conversion”, he says. It anticipates there will be a long period of dual use of the two addressing schemes alongside each other; but adoption is crucial to start organisations and individuals on the road to IPv6 migration.

Late last year the taskforce ran a training course for local network administrators. It went well Milner says and instilled confidence that equipment suppliers are responding competently to the need for IPv6 adoption. Mainstream network component makers are well up with the play, he says.

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