Words from the IAB Chair – March 2011

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: March 6, 2011

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On 4 February the last five /8 IPv4 blocks from the free pool at IANA were allocated to the regional internet registries (RIRs). Below you can find the statement I made, as (Internet Architecture Board) IAB chair, during the press conference. I am well aware that with this text I am preaching to the choir, but it is an example of the kind of evangineering that the IAB gets into now and then.

The allocation of the final IPv4 free address blocks to the regional registries is both a significant and an insignificant event.

It is significant in that this moment has long been anticipated. The IETF, the standards organization for Internet protocols, started to work on an IPv4 successor almost 20 years ago, and IPv6 as we know it today was standardized 15 years ago and has matured ever since.

This event is insignificant in that next week the Internet will not be significantly different than it was a week ago. If we would run out of license plates there would not be any impact on our driving. Similarly, there will not be any notable short-term effects caused by the exhaustion of the IPv4 free address pool.

Therein lies a danger.

In the long term the application providers (and their clients) that utilize IPv4 addresses are likely to encounter issues because of the many kludges needed to keep those apps running. Meanwhile, applications that can communicate over IPv6 enabled networks will be more likely to encounter transparent end-to-end communication, enabling the continued development of innovative applications and services.

Suppose that you would compare the Internet of today with the Internet in 10 years.

If we continue to remain dependent on IPv4 we will need to spend increasing resources operating an increasingly brittle and nontransparent network incorporating NATs, ALG, CGNs, and other mechanisms needed to help the IPv4 network keep up with demand.

Such an Internet is likely to grow increasingly less capable in serving our needs than it is today. Rather than maintaining the “status quo”, the IPv4 Internet is likely to degenerate.

On the other hand, with an IPv6 based Internet endless possibilities lie ahead, because every human on this planet, and their gadgets, will be able to communicate, play, do business, and supply services. That type of explosive growth of the Internet can only continue with the larger address space that IPv6 offers.

The transition to IPv6 will not be effortless and requires the attention of equipment vendors, ISPs, CTOs and CEOs, system – and network administrators, content providers, etc, etc. However, my mother, my neighbors and my kids should never notice. They will continue to be delighted by ongoing innovation and expanded services made possible by the architecture of the IPv6 Internet.