Internet pioneer Cerf urges IPv6 migrations

Predecessor IPv4 is running out of available addresses, Vinton Cerf warns at industry event

Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf has repeated a call for migrations to IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) to stave off an anticipated lack of available addresses on IPv4.

Speaking at an industry event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Californica, Cerf, co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols, warned that IPv4 will run out of addresses next year or in early-2011. While there will be a period of attempts to sell off IPv4 spaces, Cerf stressed that the "smart thing to do is implement v6 now."  He has made similar calls for migration to IPv6 previously.

Many businesses say they see no economic advantage to deploying IPv6 over their networks, but IPv6 is coming, ready or not.

IPv6, from the Internet Engineering Task Force, dates back several years and represents the next generation of the Internet protocol. Internet service providers need to move to IPv6, said Cerf, who currently is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. Without more IP addresses, the Internet will not be able to grow very well, he said.

Cerf and other dignitaries in computing were featured at a dual celebration of the 40th anniversary of ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was a forerunner of the Internet, and the 125th anniversary of IEEE, which sponsored the event. The first transmission of the ARPAnet was on Oct. 29, 1969, from the University of California, Los Angeles, to SRI.

Cerf hailed the growth of the Internet and predicted its expansion into numerous devices, including household temperature systems and even into outer space. Sensor networks on the Internet will tell people which devices are consuming how much electricity, Cerf added.

"There are over 600 million servers on the Net that we can see," and the actual number is probably double that, Cerf said.  The Internet has 1.6 billion users as of 2009, he said.

"We are still in a state of evolution," Cerf said. "There are so many opportunities to add new functionally and new capabilities," to the system, he said.

"We are going to see billions and billions of devices on the Net," he said. The Internet, for its part, has invited many people to contribute content, Cerf said.

He explained he has been developing protocols for Internet-like space exploration systems. A three-node interplanetary network already is in use in a test mode involving the international space station, the EPOXI space craft and an Earth-bound surface system, he said.

Also speaking at the event, Howard Charney, senior vice president in the Office of the President at Cisco, said development of the Internet has come a long way, although three-fourths of the world remains unconnected. This leaves an amazing opportunity, he said.

"Basically, the advent of this technology has transformed every single sector of our lives," including government, retail, health care, manufacturing, and education, Charney said. "Nothing -- nothing -- is the same anymore."

"What comes next is pervasive computing, where everything is connected, 24/7, to everything else," said Charney.

Echoing Cerf, Charney said everything would be connected ranging from pacemakers to maybe even cartons of milk. The Internet, meanwhile, can offer the opportunity for someone in Botswana to sell crafts to a much larger market, Charney said. In Cambodia, one spot lacking electricity nonetheless is improving itself through use of wireless Internet access, he said.

The Internet boosts productivity and, in turn, standards of living, Charney said.

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Paul Krill

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