IPocalypse reports greatly exaggerated: Internode

'Panic merchants' who predicted the end of the internet, as Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses run out, are as bad as the Y2K bug alarmists of 12 years ago, according to a local proponent of IPv6.

The global internet registry, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, has warned that the last global allocation of IPv4 addresses ran out in February this year.

Regional internet registries are likely to follow suit, with Australia's provider APNIC set to be exhausted first.

IPv4's successor, IPv6, is already widely supported by both networking hardware and software but is yet to receive adoption en masse by many companies.

Ahead of World IPv6 Day on 8 June, where Facebook and Google will turn on IPv6 for 24 hours, Internode network engineer, Mark Newton, told Computerworld Australia he was confident that its customers would not be affected because its website had been "dual stacked", which meant the company was already using IPv4 and IPv6.

Internode was also listed on the Internet Society’s list of service providers as a participant, but World IPv6 day is mainly an initiative that was being conducted by content providers.

Newton said the company was watching what Google and Facebook were doing "with interest", and he hoped that some of the providers who had gone to the trouble of dual stacking infrastructure would quietly forget to turn it off afterwards.

"When organisations like Google and Facebook do the same thing that we’ve been doing with our own site for some time now, then we would expect customers would have the experience with them that they’ve had with us," he said.

"It’s [IPv6] a bit of a yawn really and that’s how it should be. Ahead of the day, it has alerted its help desk just in case there were connectivity issues."

He added that there were a lot of parallels between the rhetoric used with IPv6 and that of the Y2K bug in 1999, where technicians discovered many computing systems used two digits to store the year, and so the rollover from 99 to 00 could have caused various logic errors, such as recognising the New Year as 19100, which would cause the system to fail.

"There are always panic merchants and doomsayers with anything new that comes along," Newton said.

"I guess the difference between IPv6 and Y2K is that there isn’t a hard cut flag day for IPv6; it’s something we are going to spend the next five to 10 years phasing in.

"It’s not like the old internet is going to suddenly stop working and the new one has to start like the predictions about Y2K where people said you had to dump all the old applications.”

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He also dismissed the Mayan Calendar end of the world theory next year, which Hollywood movie 2012 has drawn attention to.

“I comfortably predict that we won’t have run out of IPv6 addresses before the Mayan end of the world prophecy comes true," Newton joked.

To get its customers prepared for the changeover, Newton said it had been trying to outreach into both the general community and business people to demystify what IPv6 is and how it is going to run.

"The transition is a lot easier than people make it out to be, but the hardest part is deciding if you are going to push ahead with it," he said.

"Once the organisation has made a transition, the rest of it is fairly straightforward."

Over 600 Internode customers are now taking part in IPv6 trials, which began in 2008. In addition, more security managers were taking an interest in finding out the security aspects of IPv6, which differ from IPv4.

“It’s differently secure," Newton said.

"There are some attack vectors that don’t exist with V6 that do with V4. That’s why it is important for people who are responsible for security in organisations to get familiar with it and find out where the differences are."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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