Leading Internet prognosticator still pessimistic about IPv6

Researcher doubtful that IPv6 will get deployed in time to avert an addressing crisis across the Internet

Geoff Huston, an Australian researcher whose predictions about IPv4 depletion dates have proven uncannily accurate over the years, is still not certain that IPv6 will get deployed in time to avert an addressing crisis across the Internet.

Despite the success of last week's World IPv6 Launch Day -- in which 60 access networks and 3,000 websites including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo enabled support for IPv6 -- Huston says there hasn't been enough market momentum surrounding IPv6 to declare it a sure thing. While Huston concedes that the event caused a rise in IPv6 usage to about 1 percent in the United States, he says the protocol needs to be at a 20 percent usage rate to ensure that it will succeed.

[ Check out the slideshow: Why the Internet needs IPv6. | Also on InfoWorld: Abort your IPv6 launch if you're not prepared. | Prep yourself for the big networking changeover with Matt Prigge's handy IPv6 checklist. | Get expert networking how-to advice from InfoWorld's Networking Deep Dive PDF special report and Technology: Networking newsletter. ]

SLIDESHOW: Why the Internet needs IPv6

I chatted with Huston from Canberra, where he is chief scientist of APNIC and an adjunct research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Network World: Has World IPv6 Launch Day changed your pessimistic view of IPv6?

Geoff Huston: No. Last year, we actually saw in the three to four months leading up to World IPv6 Day [a 24-hour trial of IPv6 services], an exponential increase in IPv6 usage. When I look now at the same set of statistics -- the number of networks that announce IPv6 on their Autonomous System Numbers, the number of entries in the IPv6 inter-domain routing table -- that sharp rise that happened 13 months ago didn't appear last month. It's almost like the folk that were going to play in IPv6, started to play a year ago, and the threshold for everybody else is too high. That leads me to the relatively pessimistic view about the business issues around IPv6. The customers are not going to fund this with incremental payments. The industry -- particularly the last-mile access industry -- is having a tough time coming up with the amount of money required. I'd love to be optimistic about IPv6; I just can't see it in the data.

Network World: Are you pessimistic even in the United States, which had some of its largest ISPs including Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner participate in World IPv6 Launch Day?

Huston: Yes. We measure about 600,000 random people a day to see who is using IPv6 to access YouTube. The U.S. on average had about 0.6 percent of customers selecting IPv6. It jumped to 0.95 percent over the last two weeks. To say that IPv6 usage rising from 0.6 percent to 0.95 percent is a dramatic jump is [not true.] If we were talking about increasing from 1 percent to 20 percent, I'd say, "Let's break out the champagne." Once we get to that kind of number, there's an assured outcome. Maybe I'm a tough one. Maybe the glass is half-empty. But 0.95 percent is not brilliant. There's still an amazing amount of work that has to happen. One in 100 is not critical mass.

Network World: You have predicted a shortfall of 800 million IPv4 addresses developing between 2012 and 2014. What about allocated-but-unused IPv4 addresses? Could they solve this shortfall?

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