Internet Chaos, Interrupted?

IPV6 will guarantee that the Internet doesn't run afoul of chaos. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD

When the main nternet address and naming agency finishes handing out blocks of new internet addresses - the last seven are earmarked to go to the Internet registrar for Asia and the Pacific this month - the Internet may be close to running out of room for new addresses - and that has some technology experts worried.

Earlier today ABI Research predicted "worldwide mobile broadband-enabled subscriptions ... will hit the one billion mark in 2011." Given the limits of the current system in place, the possibility for cyber chaos has become a foregone conclusion if the status quo remains.

"You might find that you can't get online unless someone else goes offline," said James Blessing, a member of the board of the UK's Internet Service Providers Association, in an interview with the Guardian. "It would be like the internet before broadband, when everything was on dial-up modems, and if too many people were dialing in then you couldn't get connected."

The Guardian has an good primer on the topic, which has been a hot topic among the geek set for the last year and has now begun to spill over into mainstream coverage. With the sharp growth in Internet demand putting new strains on the system, the transition to a successor, called IPv6 - for internet protocol version 6 - is being heralded by network engineers, mobile phone carriers, and others running into IPv4 limits.

That still might not be fast enough for some service providers who are on a course for exhausting their current IPv4 addresses within the next half year. But the technical breakthrough in IPv6 is that roughly 340 trillion devices would be able to connect to the Internet simultaneously.

The unanswered question is how long any of this will register with businesses, who may be tempted to put off the transition. One ISP, however, warns that most companies will need to make the migration to IPv6 sooner rather than later or face the consequences. "Companies that fail to migrate to IPv6 will face a number of painful options, including buying expensive equipment to cobble together an address-sharing scheme or going out to the marketplace to acquire IP address space at a potentially exorbitant price," according to Martin Levy, Hurricane Electric's head of IPv6 Strategy.

Will they heed that advice? To be continued.