September 24, 2008
Father of Net:Web Addresses are Running Out
Vint Cerf, known as the "father of the Internet" has reported that the Web is at risk of running out of addresses that allow computers to identify with each other.
Every computer and online device is assigned a unique IP address, but the pool of unallocated numbers is about to dry up.
The man who invented the system called for businesses and consumers to adopt the next generation of addresses.
If action is not taken now, future connectivity of the Internet could be damaged, Cerf said.
"This is like the internet running out of telephone numbers and with no new numbers, you can't have more subscribers," he said.
Cerf and colleagues created the Internet in 1977 with "Internet protocol version four" (IPv4), which provided 4.2 billion addresses. Now, less
than 14 percent of those addresses are available due in part to the proliferation of Web-enhanced mobile phones.
Cerf estimated that addresses could run out by 2010, or as soon as next year.
A new system, called IPv6, has been ready for implementation for more than a decade.
Under IPv6, each address has 128 bits and so provides 340 trillion, trillion, trillion different addresses - that is 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. It is assumed that this will meet humanity's needs for decades to come.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that shifting to the new addressing scheme was "critical for the future of the Internet economy" and was likely to affect "all businesses that require IP addresses for their growth".
Cerf referred to the "Internet of things," in which ordinary objects are connected to the net, causes the need for more IP addresses at a faster rate. What's more, he believes that as IPv4 addresses begin to close up, businesses will begin snatching them up faster, causing even more acceleration.
"The technical stuff for IPv6 is done. IPv6 is ready. This is a business issue in the Internet service industry. The ISP community round the world
needs to pay attention," Cerf said.
He said he had been speaking to ISPs, including AT&T and Verizon in the United States and BT, the biggest ISP in the UK. He said the bulk of companies had no idea about IPv6 and the ISPs were not informing them.
"They are persisting in the "Ënobody is asking for this' mentality," he said "They are not valuing business continuity as they should.
"When they finally wake up, there is going to be a mad scramble for IPv6 and they won't implement it properly."
Most software companies such as Microsoft and many hardware companies are already making their products IPv6 ready.
In Asia, governments in China, Korea and Japan have led the roll out of the new protocol.
The Department for Business said it was consulting with companies and ISPs about the best way to encourage the implementation of IPv6.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Government technology experts are confident that an efficient use of current public IP addresses and a move to IPv6 as the need arises will avert any risk of address exhaustion in Government systems."
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