Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's This About IPv4?

We've run out of addresses so now what?

I decided a few weeks ago it was time to think about this a bit and try to come to some reasonable conclusions. I wrote a really long and rambling, i.e., useless blog post which is still sitting in the draft bucket. Now I'm going to take a stab at a shorter summary.

So, how will this problem affect you and me?

It may cost money

There's now a shortage of IPv4 addresses meaning they are scarce resources. That's the definition of an economic problem and the response will be rising prices. I think that the more you care about what your IP address is, the more you'll have to pay. If you don't care, maybe you don't even know what an IP address is, then the impact may not even be noticeable.

For the most part, the ones who care about IPv4 addresses are those providing services. They'll have to pay more and, in some cases, charge their customers more.

There will be down time

Still, a lot of changes will need to be made in the networking infrastructure that underlies the world most of us live in. That means large projects will be undertaken, some in a panicked rush, and mistakes will be made, even in the best of cases. For you and me, that means web sites will go down, we'll lose access from time to time and other inconveniences will pop up without warning. Think of big highway construction projects.

And finally,

IPv6 is not a solution

IPv6 is not a solution to the IPv4 problem. It's an entirely new undertaking that's so huge, I claim it's an entirely new problem, even bigger than the IPv4 challenge.  Claiming IPv6 solves the IPv4 problem is like saying we can fix some local problem on Earth by terraforming Mars and moving there. Well, in an indirect way that would render the original problem irrelevant, but it's not an easy or affordable solution and it has a whole lot of details that aren't worked out yet.

I continue to think that the current IPv4 problem can be architected away using network address translation (NAT). We've pushed off the scarcity of numbers this way over the years. Now it just needs to be done on a bigger scale, and it will be accompanied by the problems I've predicted above.