Internode eyes ‘crunch time’ after one-year IPv6 trial

Friday, 05 November, 2010

As national broadband company Internode this week passes the 12-month milestone for its public trial of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), the company expects 2011 will be “crunch time” for the internet.

Adopting IPv6 is an essential next step for the internet as the online world faces the imminent exhaustion of the four billion IP addresses currently provided by the IPv4 addressing system.

Through hundreds of people enrolling in its IPv6 trial, Internode has developed a broad and deep understanding of the next generation internet protocol and the challenges to its public deployment.

Internode Chief Information Officer Frank Falco said 2011 was expected to be “crunch time” for the availability of IPv4 addresses. “Current projections suggest global allocations will run out by the middle of next year,” he said. “Next year being the crunch time doesn’t mean everything will stop immediately, but anyone with IPv4 addresses will be much more careful about allocating them.

“In October 2010, only 12 blocks remained available from the original 256 IPv4 blocks: the point is that we used 11 blocks in the first eight months of this year, so, at that rate, we’re likely to run out by mid 2011.

“While we’re not alarmist about this problem, we want to make sure people are aware of the issue because it affects corporate purchase decisions, which have an impact for the next three to five years.”

First published in 1998, IPv6 was designed to succeed IPv4, the first publicly used internet protocol, because of the foreseeable exhaustion of the IPv4 address space. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses to create a vastly larger address space than IPv4, which is only 32 bits. The IPv6 address space supports 340 undecillion IP addresses - an undecillion is a one followed by 36 zeroes - compared to the four billion addresses available in IPv4.

The biggest challenge for this migration process is that IPv6 addresses are not compatible with IPv4. This means that, during the transition, many organisations will run their networks in ‘dual stack’ mode - with devices broadcasting both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.

Internode announced its Australia-first IPv6 public trial in the first week of November last year, inviting customers to participate in a technical trial of IPv6 running natively on its national broadband network.

As well as gaining insights from experiences of a wide cross-section of technical and non-technical users, Internode has learned about how to architect its provisioning systems for IPv6 and has been able to provide feedback to equipment vendors including Cisco, Juniper, NetComm, Linksys and Billion.

Internode has also started to overturn a longstanding barrier to widespread IPv6 adoption, specifically the availability of consumer-priced IPv6 routers. Internode is already selling IPv6-ready routers, such as the NetComm NB6Plus4 series, which costs from $99.

Falco said IPv6 adoption was a matter of when rather than if. “Especially if you’re in business, you need to start planning for a future that is IPv6,” he said. “You should start with an audit of your current equipment. Although there’s no hard cut-off date, over the coming years, the quality of the online experience with IPv4 will degrade, so businesses should start planning the migration of their equipment.

“A major benefit of IPv6 is that it will greatly improve auto-configuration of systems. The vastly increased address space of IPv6 will mean that every device on the internet - from computers and mobile phones to pieces of embedded equipment - will have its own unique IP address, making it much easier to manage how they interact.”

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