Vint Cerf, the ‘godfather’ of the net, has said the UK government should offer tax credits for upgrading to IPv6
Vint Cerf, one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the World Wide Web and Internet evangelist for Google, has highlighted the need for cash incentives to encourage ISPs and businesses in the UK to move to version six of the IP addressing scheme (IPv6).
Speaking at the launch of 6UK – the organisation set up to lead the country’s transition to IPv6 – government representative David Hendon, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), compared the IPv6 transition to “changing the engine on a racing car when it’s going full speed around the track”. He stated that the primary role of the government and 6UK was to raise awareness and provide leadership for businesses during the transition.
“You mentioned that the government might not have a direct role other than to encourage things like this to happen,” said Cerf. “I would suggest, however, that some thought be given to tax credit for upgrade of equipment to v6 capability. You’d have to do the math to see what impact it would have, but creating some business incentive might be helpful.”
Taking the plunge
IP addresses are unique online identifiers which allow computers to communicate with each other around the world. The Internet is built around version four of the IP addressing scheme (IPv4) which can accommodate around four billion addresses.
When the web was first set up, four billion seemed like more than enough, but the growth of the Internet – in particular the current surge in demand for mobile Internet – means that IP addresses are being used up faster than ever.
IPv6 uses 128 bits of address data, giving it much greater capacity to accommodate the growth of the Internet than IPv4 addresses, which contain only 32 bits. It has been calculated that there is capacity for 340 trillion trillion trillion IPv6 addresses worldwide.
Cerf echoed the warning of the Internet authority IANA and the European Regional Internet Registry, RIPE NCC, that the last batches of IPv4 addresses will be allocated in the Spring of 2011. The pressure is therefore increasing on ISPs and businesses to take action, or risk stunting future innovation.
“This is probably the most tumultuous time period for the Internet that I can think of since the time that we launched the thing and put it in operation in January 1983,” said Cerf.
However, he emphasised that the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is not simply a matter of “flicking a switch”. The two versions will have to run in parallel – or dual stack – for some time, in order to avoid breakages in the network.
“This important IPv6 issue has to be resolved, but the motivation for it is not simply to expand the address space, it is to make sure that the instrument called the Internet is accessible to businesses and academia around the world,” said Cerf.
Also present at the 6UK launch event was Tom Klieber, executive director of American ISP Comcast. According to Klieber, one of the biggest challenges for ISPs is proving the business case for moving to IPv6.
Comcast began the transition to IPv6 five years ago but the lack of customer demand has meant that IPv6 has constantly been pushed down the list of priorities, and advances have been incremental. “Everyone has a time investment to make, and it’s not four weeks,” Klieber warned. “My advice is to future-proof your business.”
“There is an IPv6 in your future,” added Cerf. “Resistance is futile.”