Network World: You've said it isn't clear which path the Internet will take: IPv4 with carrier-grade NATs or IPv6. Do you still think that's true after World IPv6 Launch Day?
Huston: Yes. It's the service providers that hold the fate of the Internet in their hands. The more we prevaricate, the more they are forced to put in carrier-grade NATs that constrain the Internet and give them the ability to exploit that equipment and regain a revenue stream from the content. At that point, life gets pretty bleak. All of a sudden, content is no longer open and uniformly accessible. Content has to pay a tax to the carrier. The incumbent content providers will pay because they have to. They're rich enough anyways. But any new content is completely locked out of the network. How do we prevent that? The carriage industry needs to understand that they are utilities like water or sewage. It's an ugly job, but somebody has to do it. Yes, it spins a dollar, but it doesn't spin a million. Getting them to accept that is quite hard. To unlock the Internet, the carriers' aspirations have to be stomped on.
Network World: What policies could be enacted to make this happen?
Huston: Policymakers don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. They don't want to legislate the Internet where it creates hostility with investors. I think legislators really, really hope that those carriage folk get the message and go to IPv6 so they won't be forced to legislate. There are no clear answers here, which is why I say, in all the news about IPv6, there is still room for pessimism.
Network World: What advice would you offer a room full of U.S. CIOs about IPv4 depletion and IPv6 adoption?
Huston: IPv6 is in everybody's interest, including the enterprise. If I was an enterprise network manager, what I would do is make sure that any equipment I'm buying from here on through is protocol neutral. I would want equipment that is not just paying lip service to IPv6, but can demonstrate IPv6. I would be doing my security infrastructure and my firewalls with IPv6. I'd be doing that now. I'd be enabling my public services -- Web, email -- with IPv6. I'd be doing that now because if I wait I'm going to be in the middle of a rush, and the price is going to be 10 times higher for those who wait.
The age of the laptop is over. The enterprise infrastructure is going to be LTE devices, iPads and smartphones. Work is going to go with the employee; the employee isn't coming to work. The rational enterprise is going to see that [trend] and will be quietly building up capability in IPv6. Mobility is changing business in the same way that the fax, telephone and even the PC changed business. The next wave is just as dramatic and just as fun. IPv6 is going to be fundamental to that change.
Network World: What would it take for you to be optimistic about IPv6?
Huston: If we get to 20 percent usage in the U.S., this is all over. If China did it, watch out. Or if Germany did it, watch out. My metric is not number of routes, number of domain names, number of Autonomous System Numbers, not even traffic. I want to see it in users' day-to-day activities. If 20 percent of the users in America use IPv6, the future of IPv6 is assured.
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This story, "Leading Internet prognosticator still pessimistic about IPv6" was originally published by Network World.