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Extreme makeover, Internet edition

Candice Jones
By Candice Jones
Johannesburg, 05 Feb 2008

International Internet governance organisation, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), yesterday added support for Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) on several international root name servers.

The protocol upgrade comes in the wake of a dwindling pool of Internet addresses which allow computers across networks and the Internet to communicate. IPv4 has been the primary method of technology communication for almost 10 years; however, the roughly 4.3 billion addresses available are rapidly running out.

"Industry expects the IP addresses available in IPv4 to run out by as soon as 2011," says Internet Service Provider Association of SA GM Ant Brooks.

IPv6, developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, caters for a vastly larger number of Internet addresses to be used by Internet-connected devices. "The move by IANA is a very positive one; everyone who wants or has access to the Net will have to make the move eventually," says Brooks.

SA remodelling

According to Brooks, more than half of South African service providers who are members of ISPA are running, or are close to switching on IPv6, on entire networks or parts of their backbone.

"The smaller ISPs are slower at this; however, it is more difficult for them since they need the primary providers to have support before they can switch on."

ISPA hopes to have all members with v6 support by the end of this year. This is in line with international reports that integrated support between IPv4 and IPv6 needs to be available over the next two years.

According to the AfriNic, the organisation that deals with the allocation of addresses in African regions, IANA addresses in IPv4 will be exhausted by 26 July 2011.

Business renovation

"This does not mean that IPv4 will disappear or not be supported. It will take around 20 years for v6 to become the intrinsic Internet protocol," explains Brooks. However, South African businesses will need to start looking at including integrated or native support for the protocol on their Web servers, he warns.

"There are rapidly growing chunks of the Internet that are moving towards exclusive use of IPv6. If business servers (which may host Web sites and other Internet-related services) are not supported, other computers may not be able to communicate with them or see them."

Brooks says the end-user will not be vastly affected, since IP works in the background.

Root name servers are maintained by the Internet community to supply a name to an Internet address. SA`s root name server is .co.za. It is not one of the six servers to have had added full support; however, it has integrated translation between the two protocols.

The Johannesburg Internet exchange point has had support for IPv6 for over a year, says ISPA. "The real significance of the addition of native IPv6 support on the name servers is that many servers will no longer need to use both v6 and v4 to access v6 sites or servers," says Brooks.

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