RealTime IT News

Global Crossing Gives Out Free IPv4 Software

Global Crossing is dabbling with a bit of philanthropy, announcing Thursday it would release its in-house IP addressing management source code to interested Internet service providers and other providers.

The application is one of many applications service providers can use to manage their customers' IP addresses in an efficient manner, something that's become increasingly important as more and more users connect their devices (be it a PC or a Web-enabled wireless phone) to the Internet.

Ben April, a network engineer at Global Crossing and author of the program, said the decision to disseminate the program, free of charge, to all askers comes from the interest it raised within the engineering community.

"We distributed e-mail within the IP engineering community to determine if there was interest in the tool," April said. "In two days, we received more than 60 requests -- people were begging for the tool."

FreeIPdb is a Perl script that assigns new IP addresses and keeps track of existing IP addresses in a company's network. The free download can be found at the FreeIPdb Web site. Several mailing lists have been established at the site to provide a support community for new users and managed by April.

John Legere, Global Crossing chief executive officer, said the application will help prolong the shelf life of IPv4 while a new IP addressing architecture is rolled out worldwide.

"The FreeIPdb tool has been a boon to our IP network routing," said John Legere, chief executive officer of Global Crossing. "We're pleased to make it available to help the entire IP community get maximum advantage from IPv4 as IPv6 is being globally deployed."

The IPv4 standard used by the communications industry today was at one time the most efficient standard used to keep track of all the people on the Internet.

In the early 90s, engineers figured the addressing scheme would never need to be overhauled because the total number of possible numbers was an astronomically large one, something on the order of 4,294,967,296 hosts. Used primarily by the military, government, large corporations and technophiles, there seemed to be no danger of running out of "breathing room."

The huge commercial success of the World Wide Web took care of that assumption and many experts agree that, left to its own devices, the current crop of IP addresses will run out in 2005 or 2006.

IPv6 has emerged as the next-generation standard for IP addressing and will be deployed in the coming years. But, until then, the message from the three regional IP directories -- Asia Pacific network Information Center (APNIC), Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) and American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) -- is conserve, conserve, conserve.

Zeus Kerravala, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group, agrees with the consensus and said Global Crossing's database tool, or others like it, is one every provider should have managing their IP addresses.

"IPv4 addressing is an increasingly scarce resource," he said. "Global Crossing's FreeIPdb software tool offers a unique functional capability on a global scale that enhances the efficiency of IP addressing and IP management, putting more control back into the hands of the service provider."

In addition to the source code, the FreeIPdb comes with an interface to browse the IP addressing data files. Download size of the program is only 318 KB, although would-be users will need to have a Perl interpreter, PostgreSQL 7.0 with Perl interface and Web server capable of running .cgi scripts for a front-end.

The tool can be used when IPv6 finally does roll out, allowing providers to migrate the application into the new standard.

Code author April said that while IPv6 will open up an IP addressing realm orders of magnitude larger than IPv4, it's wise for providers to get a database program in place to manage the new scheme.

The smallest routable block in IPv6 is 322 times larger than all of IPv4 address space," he said. "It is therefore crucial that good tools exist to deal with the assignment and allocation of that space. There will be no need to create a new tool or adapt FreeIPdb when IPv6 is available."