Are You Ready for the Next Internet?


By Tony Kontzer

So it turns out this Internet thing is a bit behind the times, and we're all running on an old version, and CIOs need to get up to speed on this. Allow me to explain.

Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist and the man credited with inventing Internet protocol (IP), has said that CIOs need to be ready for IP version 6, and that if they're not, they need to figure out what to do to fix that. Apparently, IP version 4, the one most of the Internet's running on now, is facing a bit of an address crunch that threatens the existence of the Net as we know it.

"The Internet cannot continue to grow effectively without the new address space" supplied by IPv6, says Cerf. "We're going to run out of IPv4 address space somewhere around 2011, and that's not very long from now in terms of preparing a fully operational IPv6 system running concurrently with IPv4."

The main difference between the two versions is that IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, whereas IPv4 uses 32 bits. The upshot is that IPv6 is more flexible when it comes to allocating addresses and routing traffic, and it eliminates the need for network address translation, a modification process that was widely adopted as a way to slow the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses.

It would seem to be in the business world's interest to get IPv6 adoption on the fast track, so why is it that 10 years after it was designated as the successor to IPv4 by the Internet Engineering Task Force, IPv6 is still languishing? Let's start with the fact that companies have to re-engineer their networks to be compatible with IPv6 and deploy new IPv6-enabled security and system management products, two areas that are supposed to be improved greatly by IPv6. In an economy like the one we're mired in now, companies aren't eager to pour huge sums of money into IT infrastructure investments.

No matter, says Cerf. Companies need to get on board regardless of the needed investments. "It's absolutely critical that our business sector, the private sector, be prepared for operation of both IPv6 and IPv4," he says.

Perhaps the private sector should look to the public sector for inspiration. According to publications like Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, growing numbers of federal entities are rapidly becoming IPv6-ready. The U.S. Air Force is preparing to turn on its IPv6 network; the Department of Defense's Joint Interoperability Test Command is now ensuring that all technologies are IPv6-compliant before adding them to the DOD's approved product list; and the Defense Information Systems Agency already has begun planning specific projects that can't run on IPv4.

And, of course, Google is doing its part, letting companies that have an IPv6 network in place make use of Google services on IPv6-enabled Web sites. (Somehow the fact that Google is out in front on this along with the military only strengthens my supposition that it will emerge as the next great defense contractor, but that's a topic for a future post.)

So, the question before all of you CIOs out there is clear: Where are you in your IPv6 adoption? If you don't have a good answer, then I think I speak for Cerf when I say you better get one.


4 Comments for "Are You Ready for the Next Internet?"

  • beba moore August 02, 2009 7:01 pm

    bleclic - what a piece of work....

  • Arlin Bleclic May 14, 2009 2:28 pm

    Forget about the IP space and running out. We can work through that. There are by far better reasons to jump on the IPv6 band wagon. Better security, more robust and better performance, clustering, always on, plug and play. Security alone is enough reason to keep technology moving forward. The old if it ain't broke don't fix it does not apply here. The internet is broke and as security, rich media and complex applications begin to roll out the need for a better internet is more and more necessary. I think IPv6 secure clouds really are going to become the norm and as these clouds interconnect the will be an old, a new and a hybrid internet we will have to manage.

  • Mark H May 08, 2009 5:34 pm

    This is really not a topic that should point fingers to the 'consumer' of IPv6 for their slowness in IPv6 plans. It should however start with a basic understanding of how we got here: The IPv6 designers made a fundamental conceptual mistake- they designed the IPv6 address space as an alternative to the IPv4 address space, rather than an extension to the IPv4 address space. A COMPLETE RE-TOOLING path! It is this basic fundemental that has caused nearly all IT vendors to be slow to support IPv6 (since it means re-creating their entire IP product lines), and subsequently end-users to be slow to adopt an extremely limited number of devices that actually speak IPv6. And available IPv4 to IPv6 converters are science fair project to say the least... The original posting's conclusion is accurate, that everyone needs a PLAN, but the TIMEFRAME in which to do so is very arguable, depending on WHO you talk to...

  • Cody Christman May 07, 2009 5:49 pm

    Here at NTT Communications, we are trying to do our part. We have offered our customers commercial IPv6 transit services since 2003. Since that time our entire backbone (globally - Asia, Europe, North America and Australia) has been running IPv4/v6 dual stack. We also have a number of other managed services that support v6/v4 - managed router, managed firewall, etc. So we're ahead of the curve in my opinion. And we're doing what we can to make the transition easier for our customers, as well as to promote the benefits of IPv6 in general. (not just because v4 space is running out and "you have to do it") I applaud your article because it is a message that needs to be spread. One final note since you mention Vint. He has a "brainwave" thread on the v6 micro site v6atwork.com titled "Is implementing IPv6 really that hard". In my opinion, many make the transition out to be harder than it is. But please jump in on the discussion and share you thoughts on Vint's thread.

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