The news that the world's supply of IPv4 addresses has dwindled to such a state that fewer than 10 percent of the stock remain should not come as a shock to network administrators. There have been various apocalyptic warnings sent out over the previous decade.
For example, back in 1999, one of the founders of the Internet, Vint Cerf, warned that the world was fast running out IP addresses. And last March, traffic monitoring company Pingdom warned of a crisis in the making when it released figures that showed that just four percent of the world's traffic supported the new protocol. Although various address agencies dismissed the use of the word "crisis", although the general feeling was that there was a need for more work to be done - although this will really reach a peak when the IPv4 addresses finally neared exhaustion and addresses were no longer available for free, said Leo Vegoda, number resources manager at IANA.
The debate around IP address depletion in a way mirrors the debate over the Year 2000 problem that so exercised IT departments in the last decade. While the warnings haven't been as dire as those for Y2k - there have been no prophecies about planes falling out of the sky or nuclear power stations going bang, for example - there's often a feeling that warnings from governments, standards bodies and other official agencies are unnecessarily doom-laden.
Axel Pawlik, head of RIPE NCC, the European Reginonal Internet Registry, definitely agrees. He told me that the "panic-mongering" in the early days of IPv6 had been counter-productive. "It was far too soon," he said.
But if the response to the issue of IPv4 address depletion has been slow moving, there are signs that it's picking up and that it's at last permeated some consciousness. RIPE NCC said last year that it had not had to resort to the strong-arm tactics of its North American counterpart ARIN and send out warning letters about the rapidly dwindling stocks.
There needs to be more than just awareness. There needs to be an imperative to move towards IPv6 adoption as quickly as possible. Dual Stack Lite, a technology developed by Comcast will help the transition by allowing deployment of both protocols and helping the translation between them but all organisations should now be moving towards accepting that IPv6 will be the only viable protocol in the future.
IT administrators are under a variety of pressures: commercial, financial and in terms of manpower so the last thing they need is something else to worry about but this is really is something that's not going to go away.
The situation seems to resemble, an important exam. You know that it's coming but you put off revision because there's plenty of time and you know that you can mug it all up a few days beforehand - but the day of the exam comes along more quickly than expected, amid the dawning realisation that it's all been too late. Let's hope that organisations don't fail the IPv6 exam - it's a technology that works and now really is the time to start implementing it.
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