More operational experience is the key to a smooth transition from IPv4

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, 14 November 2007 – The Internet Society (ISOC) today urged network operators and other Internet stakeholders to share their operational experience of IPv6 deployment, as the Internet community prepares for the depletion of the IPv4 address pool.

Until now, the Internet has predominantly relied on the Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) address standard to uniquely identify devices within the Internet’s routing system. All devices connected to the Internet need an IP address. However the available pool of previously unallocated IPv4 addresses is now approaching depletion, with most experts believing it will occur within the next three to five years. While this will not mean Internet development stops, it does signal the need for change in order to maintain an open system of address availability.

Fortunately, there is another address standard already in use on the Internet. IPv6 was first released for public use in 1999, but so far, deployment of the new protocol has been limited.

Leslie Daigle, ISOC’s Chief Internet Technology Officer, explains that until now, most network operators have seen little incentive to become early adopters of IPv6. “To the end user, the choice of address protocol means very little,” says Daigle. “Network operators have not seen significant customer demand for IPv6 and, therefore, have found it difficult to make a case for upgrading their networks. However, the imperative of business continuity will dictate a move to IPv6 at some point as the pressure on the IPv4 address space increases.”

“IPv4 has worked extremely well and will continue to do so after the available unallocated pool is depleted. But as new networks emerge or existing networks need to expand – and as new technologies, devices and services demand increasingly large numbers of addresses – operators will need an alternative and will have to look to IPv6,” says Daigle.

IPv6 and IPv4 are designed to perform the same primary function, but they are different in important ways. The most important difference is that IPv6 is vastly more abundant than IPv4, creating an address pool large enough to provide for Internet expansion well beyond the foreseeable future.

“IPv4 and IPv6 can coexist on networks together,” says Daigle. “But they do not talk directly to each other. Although IPv6 is now being used on the Internet, there are a number of operational aspects which still need to be improved. The best way to achieve those improvements is to bring diverse operational experience to the table – and that’s the thing we really need more of right now.”

A common alternative to deploying IPv6 is to use Network Address Translation (NAT) to effectively extend the scope of IPv4 by putting smaller networks behind a single IPv4 address routed in the global Internet. NAT is commonly used today and presents an apparently simple technique for those who do not feel ready for IPv6. However, many protocols and services cannot work well through NATs and many experts believe that the short-term relief offered by NAT could lead to many negative long-term consequences.

In recent times, IANA (which manages the free pool of unallocated IP addresses) and the Regional Internet Registries (which distribute the addresses) have all made public statements drawing attention to the coming end of IPv4 allocation services.

ISOC welcomes these statements as constructive steps towards preparing the Internet community for an inevitable change. The Internet’s creation, evolution, and expansion has always been a product of the people who actually use it.

The operators, businesses, end users, and researchers come together in open, consensus-based processes to create, innovate, and solve problems. Over the decades, this “Internet model” has worked with unprecedented effectiveness.

“There is certainly no need for Internet users to worry about the end of IPv4,” explains Daigle. “The Internet community has always known this day will come. When the pool of addresses is fully allocated, the existing IPv4 networks and services will all continue to work exactly as they do now.”

“There will not be an ‘event’ or crisis that the general public will notice. But the administrative and technical environment will inevitably change. As a community, we must continue to work together with all of our combined experience and knowledge to ensure that the change is as smooth as possible.”

About ISOC

The Internet Society (www.isoc.org) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. With offices in Washington, DC, and Geneva, Switzerland, it is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world.

Other ISOC links

IPv6 FAQ:

http://isoc.org/educpillar/resources/ipv6_faq.shtml
General IP addressing resources:

http://isoc.org/pubpolpillar/issues/addressing.shtml

For further details

Mark Thalhimer

Director of Communications and Public Relations, Internet Society

E-mail: thalhimer@isoc.org

Telephone: +1 703 326 9880 x130

1775 Wiehle Avenue

Reston, VA 20190-5108

USA