Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The IPv4 shortage isn't a hoax!

Imagine that you are starting your new business, you call up the phone company to get a new phone number and they tell you, "Sorry, there are no more phone numbers left in the whole world, we're out."

What would you do?

What would businesses do?

What would the world do?

Those who already had all the phone numbers they need would be OK, but in the back of their mind, they would wonder what to do if they needed just 1 more. There has to be a single phone number available, right? Well, of course for enough money there would be, after-all, people would be willing to give up their phone numbers or maybe they had a few stashed that they weren't using. Maybe they saw this phone number shortage coming and ordered a whole bunch for a rainy day or to scalp on eBay later on?

There is good and bad news to this example. We aren't out of phone numbers just yet but we are dangerously low on public IP addresses. Many analysts agree that we have about 3 years left and we will be completely tapped out, world wide. You can even check out the updated statistics courtesy of Stephan Lagerholm at IPv4Depletion.

I was convinced before my last two days at the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit that IPv6 was a tactic invented by Cisco to separate the boys and girls from the men and women when it came to certification. It was that last chapter in the book and those 10 questions on the exam that killed all but the most dedicated certification pursuers. There was no actual need for IPv6, it was just a myth that we are running out of public addresses. Nope, it's true.

Luckily for all of us the Internet Engineering Task Force was aware of this problem many years ago and created a better IP protocol with a lot more addresses. Not just enough to cover the short term but enough to cover a very long time. They really aimed high on how many addresses they were going to put out this time. IPv6 provides more addresses in cyberspace than there are grains of sand on the world's beaches. If you like numbers, it provides 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. I think we will be ok.

Now it's just up to the network engineers of the world to get us there. Remember that a lot of us are behind the decision makers who need a push from you. I know it's not something you think of much but next time you buy a networked device, ask if it's IPv6 compliant. Give your internet service provider a call and ask them if you can have IPv6 service. Until the consumers push, this is going to be hard for us to do. If the decision makers and pocket-book-holders don't make it a priority, we will have to throw it all together in a time-crunched-panic when they do run out... and everyone knows how well our computing efforts go when we are in a hurry.

If you want to dig in even more, check out the presentations and white-papers I saw live at the summit.

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