Just what we needed, another technology limitation about to put the squeeze on everyone. And we don’t mean the Unix date bug.
The growing popularity of smartphones and other gadgets with Internet connectivity is sucking up all of the available IP addresses, and it’s beginning to impede emerging Internet markets around the world.
Cyberspace has about four to seven years before it runs out of IP addresses totally, according to a report by market researcher Frost & Sullivan. For some countries, the problem is now, according to Sam Masud, principal analyst for carrier infrastructure at the firm.
It’s been known for years that the number of IP addresses was dwindling, but there wasn’t as much specificity as to when. Now Masud is predicting 2010 will be when the world runs out, based on current rates of consumption. The U.S. won’t be as impacted since so many are allocated here, but emerging markets will take the hardest hit.
China, for instance, has fewer IP addresses allocated than Stanford University. And the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has more IP addresses than all of Asia.
This wasn’t done to be nasty to China, he said. It’s just that when IP addresses were doled out 20 years ago, the Internet was a DoD project and Stanford was heavily involved, so they kept a lot of addresses for themselves, said Masud.
With its 32-bit size, TCP/IP has room for 4.3 billion addresses. That may seem like a lot until you realize that one-third are currently accounted for and another third of that pie is claimed but not in use.
IDC said there will be 17 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2012. And obviously they will not all be using unique IPs.
TCP/IP has already extended its lifespan by 10 years, thanks to network address translation devices
The solution is to move to IPv6
Because Asia is a relatively green field with little legacy infrastructure, he added, they are doing just that: going straight to IPv6 and only using bridge connections to IPv4.
“I haven’t seen the studies, but I’ve read that China and Taiwan are on track to migrate to IPv6, whereas the private sector here in the U.S. is asleep on all this,” he said.
The one exception is the federal government, which has mandated that all government agency network backbones have to speak IPv6 by June 2008.
The rest are, he said, asleep at the switch.
Only 30 percent of the Internet service provider networks will support IPv6 by 2010, according to a study by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The cost to migrate: around $75 billion.
Masud said IP addresses are being consumed across the board, as much by smart devices as broadband providers that offer multiple IP addresses to their customers.
Comcast, one of the largest broadband providers in the U.S., is moving to IPv6 because it saw how fast it was consuming addresses and how few were left, he said.
The reason service providers are moving to IPv6 first is their desire to move to more IP-based networks for a variety of bandwidth-intensive applications.
British Telecom, for example, has said it wants to switch entirely to IP-based telephony by 2008. Cable providers want to offer newer interactive services and need more addresses.
That’s why they are moving to IPv6 first, said Masud.