Vint Cerf pushes for NZ IPv6 transition

Is the transition behind schedule? 'You're damn tooting,' says internet pioneer

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf began his address at the IPv6 Hui today with a brief history of the internet, from the original Arpanet to todays multi-network, interoperable behemoth.

Cerf says there are 1.6 billion users of the internet, a figure that can't keep on growing while using the current IPv4 addressing scheme. Asia and the developing world will be big consumers of addresses on the new scheme, IPv6, as internet use in developing nations grows.

Further new devices are being connected, including fridges, washing machines, and even wi-fi connected surfboards.

Cerf predicts there will one day be billions of such connected devices, used to control all sorts of domestic functions. Cerf himself, for instance, has such controllers on his wine cellar and received data from it the day before today's hui in Auckland.

Cerf says the drive to create smart grids for electricity will further drive usage of IP addresses and is required to make more efficient usage of electricity and fight global warming.

Cerf reiterated that IPv4 addresses are likely to run out some time in 2011. Demand for addresses could even accelerate, and he warned of a “messy kind of denouement” to the older address scheme as users scramble for internet real estate.

“Engineering in a crisis is never a good idea,” he says.

IPv6, he says, is a very large address space and IPSEC is not optional on it, boosting internet security and eliminating some web attacks.

Cerf, who was brought to New Zealand by Google and is that company's VP and internet evangelist, says Google is “very successfully” implementing IPv6 on virtually all of its services.

It is still not ready to accept the same load on those services on IPv6 as on IPv4, however, he concedes.

Cerf says it didn't take an army of people to implement, but it did take determined people.

He says grey and black markets of IPv4 already exist.

He also warned that network address translation, a proposed interim transition measure, will not solve all the addressing issues. He says multi-level NAT is fragile for P2P transactions, for instance.

ISPs will need to be able to service customers with IPv6 to allow customers to access the entire internet, he says.

Cerf says he is more than a little worried about netowrk management under IPv6. He says there needs to be serious work to ensure the network management equipment of all the vendors supports both IPv4 and IPv6.

He also says an IPv6 interconnection policy is required to ensure connectivity. He says peering in that context is less a business decision for providers and more of a necessity to provide connectivity.

Cerf says the design work behind IPv6 was done in 1996. Is it behind schedule?

“You're damn tooting,” he says.

That brought him back to the issue of “engineering in a crisis”, on which he says he is really concerned about it and mistakes that can be made when that happens.

“Get started now,” he urges.

Cerf says he also worries about a number of IT issues outside of IPv6 such as potential failure of Moore's law and a failure to scale in conventional relational databases.

Cerf worked on the ARPAnet project, a precursor to the internet, in the 1970s. He also co-designed the TCP/IP protocol, one of the foundations of the internet, with Robert E Kahn.

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Tags ipv6Vint Cerfipv6 hui

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