Vocus renews warning on IPv4 addresses

IPv4 IP addresses to run out by 2011 yet IPv6 "incrdibly unestablished" in Australia

The call for ramping up the roll out of the IPv6 standard has been renewed with a warning the world could run out of IPv4 addresses by as early as 2011.

James Spenceley, CEO at IP transit provider Vocus said that with around 10 per cent of the world’s IPv4 devices remaining, the crunch will come within two years.

“Current numbers say 2011 when we allocate the last IPv4 but I suspect it will be a bit earlier,” he said. “China and India are adding so many devices to the Internet that the rate [at which we run out of IPv4] will only accelerate. It is not something where you can just add more IP addresses to; you need to completely re-architect the Internet.”

According to Spenceley, of the original 4 billion IPv4 addresses, only half were available due to waste and restrictions imposed when the addresses were first allocated.

“A lot were given out in the early days to MIT, Apple, IBM and the US postal service and a lot were reserved for future uses, but the way in which they were reserved means they can’t be used,” he said. “Back in the day no one expected the Internet to be on every telephone… so when you look at it there aren’t even enough IPv4 addresses available for the entire population of China."

In Spenceley’s view, network operators and ISPs were waking up to the reality that a full transition to IPv6 would not occur before the world ran out of IPv4 addresses, but more needed to be done to raise awareness of the issue.

“We need to work on ways in which we can transition and operate both networks simultaneously,” he said. “Internet providers, web hosters and those with a business in this area need to be made aware that this is happening and that it will fundamentally change their businesses. We also need to get as much content, people and core functions onto the IPv6 Internet as possible."

Spenceley conceded that, in reality, moving every device to IPv6 would in all likelihood be a 10-year project, especially given that IPv6 was “incredibly unestablished” in Australia.

“We are the largest IPv6 provider in the country yet we have 28 IPv6 customers,” he said. “Prior to us launching IPv6 in the country there were 3-5 companies on IPv6. Now there are about 30.”

Spenceley said the consequences of not rapidly accelerating IPv6 adoption would be users sharing IP addresses, resulting in much of the functionality of the Internet being unavailable.

“Today if you have a home DSL service you can turn on your own website or your own mail server, but without enough IP addresses all that goes away because you will be sharing a certain number of ports. To have your own website you need port 80 on your IP address, and you may not get that port. Application design will also have to have to change to make applications work with shared IP addresses.”

Spenceley said representations had been made to the Federal Government on the issue but its focus had remained on the NBN and ISP filtering rather than the longevity of the Internet.

New CIO at Vocus In related news, Vocus has appointed a new CIO, Len Walter, in response to faster than expected growth which has seen the company achieve its three year expansion plans in just 18 months, according to Spenceley.

Walter, who has experience at Comindico and was formerly head of IT operations at TPG SOUL, will oversee the development and deployment of billing and portal tools to allow its ISP customers to change and monitor their service on-the-fly.

Walter will also oversee Vocus’ internal IT systems, billing systems, network monitoring and reporting, Spenceley said.

“My role at Vocus is to deliver a lot of our IT project in a timely fashion to make sure our customers get what they want and that Vocus itself is able to deal with the happy problems that come with fast growth – scalability especially,” Walter said.

Vocus began building out its network in September 2007 and launched commercially in April 2008. Since then the company has added about 90 customers and now competes with AAPT, Verizon and Optus.

Spenceley would not name customers, but Vodafone and Yahoo are understood to be on Vocus’ books.

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