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Internet number registry reiterates availability of IPv4 addresses

But warns 'awareness' is not enough in transitioning to IPv6

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) issued a press release recently stating that IPv4 address space still exists for organizations that have documented need, even though last month marked the official exhaustion of the free pool of IPv4 addresses. Address blocks still exist for companies whose run rates and needs dictate they need more IPv4 addresses to grow and keep up, but more awareness is needed of what actions and technologies are needed to make the transition to IPv6.

In a conversation with John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN, it became apparent that “awareness” by network and broadband providers is “not enough” in and of itself. “Many have known since 1999 about the issue, and many have IPv6 services in production, but it was surprising to see how many contacted us last month when it was announced that the final allocation of IPv4 addresses was imminent; they were surprised the time had come,” noted Curran.

Of course, with 7 billion people on the planet (many of whom have more than one address for home, work, game consoles and smartphones), the 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses were inadequate, but will the transition to IPv6 be smooth? Most carriers are cognizant of the issue and well prepared, but what about the businesses they serve? How diligent are CIOs and VPs in different businesses in getting prepared so that there isn’t a hit on performance and quality for their employees?

“The transition to IPv6 will be unlike anything ever done before; it is the largest decentralized project in the world, as you have to take the entire internet—all content and Web sites—and move them all to IPv6,” explained Curran, who notes that the lack of “direct’ backward compatibility” between v4 and v6 addresses could translate into issues with the quality of experience for people engaging in research, communication and commerce on the Internet.

“While mail systems, Web browsers, servers and PCs may support IPv6, the addresses exist as two separate languages. Customers expect they will be able to reach all v4 and v6 Web sites when they buy a service from a broadband provider, so there have to be gateways and translators in place to ensure that broadband customers connecting to IPv4 Web sites do not experience degradations in things like audio, video, ad plug-ins or geo-location capabilities. Will it all work or will there be issues?” asked Curran.

Although June 8 is the Internet Society’s “world IPv6 day,” designated as the date for service providers to voluntarily test compatibility, some issues may not be apparent right away—especially among smaller players. While companies like Yahoo!, Google and Facebook will do what they can to ensure their sites have the best performance possible, it’s the broadband companies selling services to subscribers that have to ensure customers get what they pay for. “Like a company that relies solely on fax rather than allowing for email or digital communication, it may take a while to notice there is a drop off of business resulting from the limited experience offered to existing or potential customers; the same is true with IPv4 sites, where the ‘experience’ encountered may not be known by the owner of the home Web page until problems arise in large numbers.”

While he acknowledges most technical people in the telecom space are aware and working on the issue, he believes those companies to which Internet connectivity is sold have to learn more about gateways and translators to ensure they can access all pieces of the Internet to which they are accustomed. “It’s up to the broadband providers to ensure their customers know their options, as those customers will not know what to do if things do not work,” added Curran.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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