The Second Internet
We are getting more efficient in our allocation of IPv4 addresses, but even with every trick we know,
they will likely all be gone by March 2012, or before. It is easy to measure how quickly IP addresses are
being allocated, and how many are left, so it’s not exactly rocket science to predict when they will run
out. These projections assume there will be no “bank run” or panic allocations as we get near the bottom
of the barrel, or increases in the rate that addresses are allocated. Both of these assumptions are really
optimistic. That’s why I keep saying “or sooner”. The people of Taiwan have announced their intention
to connect some 3 billion devices to the Internet in the next few years. Even if we gave them all 298
million of the remaining addresses, they still could not connect that many devices. They can only do this
by going to longer IP addresses (hence a larger address space). This is one of the main things that IPv6 is
1.5 – Is IPv6 just an Asian Thing?
I have heard many comments from U.S. networking professionals and Venture Capitalists that IPv6 is an
“Asian thing”, something that is of little interest or concern to Americans. This shows an unusually
provincial view of an extremely serious situation, even for Americans. This attitude is only partly due to
the inequitable distribution of addresses for the First Internet (there are over 6 IPv4 addresses per
American, compared to only about 0.28 per person for the rest of the world). It has a lot more to do
with a lack of knowledge of how certain parts of the First Internet really work, compounded by a limited
time horizon compared to Asian businessmen, who routinely plan 5 to 10 years ahead. America business
schools teach that nothing is important beyond the next quarter’s numbers. The depletion of IPv4
addresses is beyond the end of next quarter, but not by very much. Expect a major panic when the IPv4
depletion date comes within the time horizon of American businessmen (“why didn’t you warn us about
Any country or organization that (for whatever reason) doesn’t migrate to IPv6 is going to still be “riding
horses” while the rest of us are zipping around in these newfangled “cars”. I have nightmares about the
U.S. being just as reluctant to go to IPv6 as they were to adopt the metric system (the U.S. is the only
industrialized country not to have adopted the metric system, and I doubt they ever will). They could
decide to stay with IPv4. If so, it will become increasingly difficult for them to connect to non-U.S.
websites, or for people in other countries to connect to U.S. websites. It will impact all telephone calls
between the U.S. and anywhere else in the world. It will make IT products designed for the U.S. market
of little interest outside of the U.S. (kind of like automobiles that can’t be maintained with metric tools).
This will isolate the U.S. even further, and essentially leave leadership in Information Technology up for
grabs. Japan, China and South Korea are quite serious about grabbing that leadership, and they are well
along their way to accomplishing this, by investing heavily in IPv6 for several years already.
Being good engineers, while the IETF has the “streets dug up” increasing the size of IP addresses, they
are fixing and enhancing many of the aspects of IPv4 (QoS, multicast, routing, etc.) that weren’t done
quite as well as they might have been (who could have envisioned streaming video 27 years ago?). IPv6
is not just bigger addresses. It’s a whole new and remarkably robust platform on which to build the
1.6 – So What is This “Second Internet”?