IPv4 runs out of room

IPv4 runs out of room

Shift to a new protocol will affect 90 million computers

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

Pockets of IP Version 4 address exhaustion are showing up on government networks.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Charleston, S.C., found out the hard way, said Michael P. Brig, the command's Next Generation Internet program manager.

'We asked for two IPv4 subnets, and there are no more addresses,' he said. 'To a greater or lesser extent, that's true throughout the government.'

Predictions of a 32-bit IP address crisis date back to the early 1990s, but global transition to the more capacious 128-bit IP Version 6 protocol has not begun, except experimentally [GCN, Nov. 8, 1999, Page 1].

SPAWAR-Charleston and other Defense Department organizations are sponsoring a departmentwide IPv6 intranet pilot, starting with a handful of sites.

Brig said the chosen sites will provide 'only power and space. We will deliver the equipment'standard commercial routers, servers and clients running Microsoft Windows 2000, and a Compaq Alpha Server' for Domain Name System lookup.

He said the pilot intranet, scheduled to go up by year's end, will run as a mixed, dual-stack network that carries both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic. It will test their relative security levels and other issues.

The experimental sites will get their blocks of IPv6 addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers Ltd.'s site, at www.arin.net.

The last IP transition occurred in 1983 and affected only 1,000 or so computers that made up the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's ARPAnet, the Internet's precursor. But this time, about 90 million computers will have to be brought up to date to make traffic protocol-compatible.

The costs of the IPv6 transition will be high for the United States, which has the most IPv4 infrastructure. The rest of the world has less hardware and software to update.

Several leading vendors have readied products for the big IPv6 address space. They include Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.; Compaq Computer Corp.; Hewlett-Packard Co.; IBM Corp.; Microsoft Corp.; Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ontario; Sun Microsystems Inc.; 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.; and WorldCom Inc.

All are tentatively scheduled to demonstrate their wares at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet South 2000 conference in Charleston, Nov. 28 to 30. More information about the conference appears at www.fbcinc.com/southeastpage.htm.

Contact SPAWAR's Marsha Hassell at 843-218-4020.

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