IPv6 doomed, requires act of God

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IPv6 doomed, requires act of God

ISPs and carriers have spectacularly failed with IPv6, to the point where they need to resurrect network address translation (NATs) to persist with IPv4, a leading expert has warned.

In what at times resembled a doomsday prophecy, Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) chief scientist, Geoff Huston, told a packed AusNOG conference that ‘it’s way too late’ for IPv6 and that the industry will need ‘religion’ to get it working before the impending exhaustion of IPv4 addresses.

It is anticipated IPv4 address allocation could now run out as early as January 2009 – particularly as sectors of the industry resort to ‘panic buying’ of addresses as the shortage looms, according to Huston.

“When the IPv4 supply runs out, you’re going to have to pay [to get addresses], and after another ten years the price is going be amazing,” said Huston.

Huston was repeatedly critical of industry inaction around IPv6 deployment.

“You’ve implicitly selected the failure option [for IPv6],” said Huston.

“You haven’t done anything with IPv6, and now it’s way too late.”

When IPv6 was conceived, it was anticipated that networks would be ‘dual-stacked’ to run both IPv4 and IPv6 for a transition period.

Once IPv6 was ubiquitous, IPv4-based functionality would be switched off, heralding the next generation, according to Huston.

“It was all meant to be finished now, but we haven’t started,” said Huston.

“There’s no IPv6 out there in production land and no IPv4 addresses left. If you want IPv6 to happen now, some external factor is going to have to kick you in the pants.”

Failure, Huston said, is an option with IPv6. Rather than continue to look at IPv6, he encouraged the industry to persist with IPv4 with ‘intensive’ use of carrier-grade NATs.

“When addressing gets really expensive, it’s not obvious that you’ll jump to IPv6 – it’s more likely that you’ll NAT very intensively,” explained Huston.

This is because any IPv6 rollout will be funded out of ISPs’ own ‘marginal revenues’ rather than by customers who, by and large, can’t see the benefit of paying more to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6-based networks, Huston said.

“Customers will not pay,” explained Huston, “because while IPv6 might be technically whiz bang, it represents the benefit of a minor technology upgrade at the cost of a major forklift upgrade.”

Pushing a NAT IP address hard could result in a capacity of 200 hosts per address – and a potential billion customers per ‘slash eight’.

Slash eights are class A networks that have an 8-bit network ID.

However, the suggestion was questioned by attending members of the IPv6 Forum, who claimed the money spent on NATs would be better invested in furthering IPv6 deployments.

But according to Huston, the argument is no longer over to NAT or not to NAT.

“It’s more about questions like how many NATs can I deploy,” said Huston.

The AusNOG 02 conference concludes in Sydney today.

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