OECD warns governments that Internet address space will run out in 2011
28 May 2008
The multinational organisation is encouraging the migration of the Internet to the IPv6 protocol in order to relieve the economic and social unceOECDrtainty that would cause a jam on the Web.
It is not the first warning, but they are getting louder: the Internet address system is running out of space and the IPv4 protocol must left behind in order to migrate to IPv6. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) said as much in a preparatory document for the Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, to be held in Seoul (Korea) next June.
According to the OECD, in around 2011 the current protocol will not be able to provide any more addresses. The current Internet addresses will have run out of space. The IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and has the capacity to generate around 4.294 billion unique addresses. According to the OECD’s calculations, in 2008 only 16 % of these addresses will still be available. The switch to IPv6, which has addresses that are 128 bits long, will provide around 340 sextillion addresses.
The IPv6 is already in use on the Internet, coexisting with the IPv4, but its introduction has been very slow. The OECD is encouraging governments to drive migration to the new protocol.
One of the reasons that explain the slow adoption of the protocol is that companies do not see the need to invest in it. A company, for instance, with a thousand employees connected to the Internet, does not need a thousand unique addresses to offer the connection. Thanks to a translation system (NAT), the company deploys a set of private addresses within its internal network that are ignored by the Internet, which are the ones used by the employees. When they need to search the Internet, they do so through the address that the company has registered on the Internet.
Marcelo Bagnulo, a lecturer in Telematic Engineering at the Carlos III University in Madrid, is one of the seven experts who provided technical advice for the OECD report. In Bagnulo’s view, this system of private addresses has delayed the collapse of the Internet, “but the solution, acceptable for consulting a website, gives rise to problems when the surfer wishes to use P2P or IP telephony systems”.
Bagnulo is extremely concerned that the privatisation of the Internet will mean that the addresses will be jammed if we do not migrate to IPv6. Given that address space is expected to run out, mass accumulations of addresses by companies, organisations and private individuals are taking place. “Some companies have more addresses registered than there are active addresses in all of Spain. When the difficulties in obtaining a new address on the Internet begin, we are going to see appropriation manoeuvres. I would not rule out seeing address auctions – the appearance of a market that will make them more expensive. It doesn’t happen at the moment because, with the exception of some very specific addresses, anyone wanting a new one who finds that it is registered can create another. When this is not possible… they will become more expensive and poor countries will not be able to access this market; they will lose their presence of the Internet. My contribution to the report is strictly technical but, in the end, a political solution to the problem will have to be found”.
Currently, the two protocols, which are incompatible, coexist on the Internet. But a large proportion of Internet services and providers are unavailable for IPv6, so anyone wanting to use it has to turn to translation systems or ‘tunnelling’ to allow devices to continue communicating regardless of the protocol used.
The majority of operating systems are ready for the new protocol and migration should not be a problem for the private surfer, “although I would not rule out configuration conflicts in some cases”.
According to the OECD report, a future with every device connected to the Internet (including computers, mobile telephones and refrigerators) can only be contemplated with a system that offers an almost unlimited catalogue of new addresses. “The only sustainable solution to deliver expected economic and social opportunities for the future of the Internet economy is the deployment of IPv6”, states the document. There are some signs that the industry is waking up to this new necessity. This month Google launched a version of its search engine with this new protocol. The URL is ipv6.google.com but it can only be accessed via an IPv6 connection.
Link to article at: El Pais