Q&A : RIPE NCC managing director Axel Pawlik

By Dave Bailey
17 May 2010 View Comments
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RIPE NCC managing director Axel Pawlik
Pawlik: "IPv4 address space depletion is just around the corner"

Scare stories continue to be written about the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses available for businesses and consumers worldwide.

All devices connecting to the internet require an IP address. The increasing uptake of mobile devices and hardware not normally noted for requiring an internet connection, such as fridges, is depleting the number of IPv4 addresses faster than normal.

Further reading

That rate of depletion has led to fears that there will be no IPv4 addresses left in the next one or two years. Having no IPv4 addresses means using IPv6 instead, and having hardware to translate between the two IP addressing systems.

Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) is the regional internet registry (RIR) responsible for allocating IP addresses to UK and European businesses.

Computing talked to RIPE NCC's managing director about the current scare stories regarding IPv4 address exhaustion.

Computing: Do you think vendors wanting to sell businesses IPv6 systems have cried wolf far too often about the IPv4 address space being depleted?

Axel Pawlik: Not any more. About eight to 10 years ago we had a lot of consultants running around saying, "Oh my God, the world is coming to an end, we're going to run out of IPv4 addresses."

Our view at the time was that, in principle they were right, but the timeline meant that we wouldn't be running out of IP addresses today or tomorrow, but years down the line.

Today we'd say, yes – there'll be no IPv4 addresses in two years' time. That's just around the corner and I think we need to be moving ahead [with IPv6 rollouts].

It's all a matter of growth. The question for ISPs is, if they want to hook up more customers, do they choose to dive into needless complexity and cost, or deploy IPv6?

Do you think a lot of firms getting IPv4 addresses planned ahead and said: "let's get some extra ones – just in case IPv6 doesn't move as fast as everybody thinks?"

I don't think so. The RIRs, including RIPE NCC, allocate IPv4 addresses according to community rules.

So you don't purchase addresses – they come for free as long as you’re a member of the community, and we currently have 6,500 members.

If you want to get addresses from us, you send a couple of forms, and tell us why you think you need them.

Our analysts will scrutinise those forms and try to make sense of your plans. Then they might say, "well you need IP addresses, but not as many as you've requested – why don't we give you this many? That will do you for the next year. "

We don't see any evidence of organisations exaggerating how many IP addresses they need.

If I'm an IT manager and I say to my CEO, "let's migrate to IPv6," would he be right in replying that running a dual IP stack is a security risk and also too costly?

I'm not convinced by that. What we've heard people who deployed IPv6 technology say is that the most difficult thing was to actually make the decision.

Of course there are costs involved, depending on how big the company is and what the company does.

Firms will have to do an IT audit, looking at software and hardware compatibility with IPv6.

You also might want to talk to your ISP and convince them that IPv6 might be a good thing for them to offer.

As for running dual IP stacks, basically you're using the same machinery, and you enable IPv6 on the router dealing with IPv4 addresses. You just have to make sure the person configuring the router knows what they're doing.

IPv6 is not fundamentally different from IPv4 – there's just more bits [32 bits for IPv4 v. 128 bits for IPv6].

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