The internet has run out of IP addresses and what happens after that is anyone's guess
* By Claire Connelly
* From: news.com.au
* January 27, 2011 11:27AM
Users could face painfully slow connection times on the IPv6 system.
IT'S the end of the web as we know it.
Since its inception, the internet has become the life source of our economy, and our daily lives – a vast, neverending supply of information delivered to our homes and workplaces at rapid speeds.
Every internet connected computer, smartphone, car, gadget and gizmo is assigned an IP address made up of four sets of digits which allows it to communicate with the net - running off a system known as IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4).
But just like the housing bubble and the stock market, it was never supposed to slow down - that is, unless it ever ran out of IP addresses.
“In the coming few days and weeks - no longer, the central pool is going to run out,” says Geoff Huston, the Chief Scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre.
Mr Huston gave an address regarding the IP problem at open source conference linux.conf.au in Brisbane yesterday.
Click here for more news from linux.conf.au
"That distribution system is coming to a close," he told news.com.au.
That news itself has been kicking around for a couple of years now. Internet "founding father" Vint Cerf seems to be unable to make a public appearance without apologising for the oversight.
It's not even difficult to fix. Web developers have compensated for it by creating IPv6 - a system which recognises 128-bit addresses as opposed to IPv4's 32-bit addresses.
However, the real problem lies in the fact that IPv6 is not backwards-compatible with IPv4, meaning that it is not able to read most content that operates on an IPv4 system.
At best, their user experience will be clunky and slow.
At worst, instead of a webpage, all users will be able to view is a blank page.
The current generation of iPhones, for example, won't display anything with an IPv6 address correctly.
The real problem lies in getting everybody to take the problem seriously.
"If I changed my mobile phone to run IPv6 rather than IPv4, then all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to see the IPv4 network – none of it," Mr Huston said.
"Nobody. Nothing. No one is going to turn themselves off the internet just by running v6 so for some years we need to run both protocols at once.
“We need to equip both devices with IPv4 and IPv6.
“Now that’s fine except we’re running out of IPv4 addresses – so we’re back at the start again.”
Part of the reason ISPs and developers have been so slow to come up with a solution is that there are no economic incentives to developing IPv6.
“We keep on getting the problem that the economics of transition work against us," Mr Huston said.
“V6 doesn’t make a faster network. It’s the same protocol, it’s the same applications.
"There’s nothing that v4 can’t do so there’s no killer application in IPv6. If you turn on IPv6 tomorrow it’s still the same old internet.
“With nothing to gain financially, they do know they have to do something, they don’t feel the urgency to do it today.
"Now the situation is getting a little bit desperate because the number of 'todays' are dwindling.”
Huston says the demand levels of internet within the Asia Pacific region are so high, it will be a matter of four, to five months before we run out of IPv4 IP addresses.
After that time internet users and providers have genuine cause for concern.
“We’re genuinely looking at the possibility of seeing the kinds of behaviour that exist in the market where an important resource has run low or out,” says Marcos Ostini, Papers Chair of the 2011 Linux Conference Australia.
“That includes panic, includes forming cartels, hoarding and selling at exorbitant prices because supply and demand has changed.
“Before IP addresses weren’t particularly expensive, but now you can sell them at exorbitant prices that make a huge profit.”
Time is running out and with developers no closer to fixing the problem, things are looking grim.
“There will come a point where your iPhone doesn’t get the web anymore, or you will see a lot of blank pages. It’s a genuine problem,” Mr Ostini said.
“The issue now is if IPv6 isn’t a workable solution and v4 has run out, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
A short-term solution may be for ISPs to sell IP addresses that connect through what’s known as “Network Address Translation” – which allows more than one user to connect to a public IP address.
But like trying to use a mobile phone on New Year’s Eve this presents its own problems - because it slows down the connection speed, or could potentially make it unusable.
“They can provide addresses that way,” Mr Ostini said.
“But that by itself is not ostensible. It’s a stop gap measure. It can’t scale to the growth we’re talking about.”
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/the-internet-has-run-out-of-ip-addresses-and-what-happens-after-that-is-anyones-guess/story-e6frfro0-1225995086627#ixzz1CHROuBM9