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When Really Big Numbers Aren't Nearly Enough

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Unallocated Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are expected to be depleted by some time in 2012, according to IPv6 Forum fellow Tony Hain. He and others advocate a switch to the IPv6 addressing protocol, which will dramatically expand the population of available computers in the network. This transition will probably be untidy but not disastrous, and Hain speculates that in the worst-case scenario, "organizations that have money will have addresses, while organizations that don't have money will fall off the 'Net."

"It was an experiment with an uncertain outcome," says Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf of the original IP addressing scheme, which contained 32 bits. Cerf says that others at the time argued for a 128-bit scheme. "I couldn't imagine arguing that we needed 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses to carry out an experiment," he says. However, now Cerf says moving to IPv6 is vital. "The 'Net won't come to an end, but it will become more fragmented if we don't have widespread implementation of IPv6," he warns.

Todd Underwood with the North American Network Operators Group supports an after-market for current IP addresses so that once they are exhausted those people or businesses who need them can purchase unused addresses from others. He envisions IPv6 adoption being fueled by the rise in Internet access price such a move may trigger.

From The Wall Street Journal
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