IPv4, the most widely deployed Internet layer protocol, is running out of space. This is not an opinion, but a fact. Several forecasts see 2011 as the year during which IPv4 space address will be depleted.
Although the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), responsible for the global coordination of IP addressing (and much more), is providing guidelines on how to allocate the remaining v4 space addresses and start with IPv6 soon, it seems current interest in massive IPv6 deployment is not huge.
Key players in the information, communication and, technology (ICT) market (I mean all equipment vendors and telecom operators) are delaying the deployment of the new technology and have said this is a prudent and pragmatic approach; as of today, real business plans to support decision makers in v6 migration doesn’t exist, they contend.
In their opinion, the financial benefits of v6 delivery have not been proven, because of a lack of native v6 applications or services. This implies we will continue with the status quo of v4 exhaustion with the hope that some new guidelines will emerge one minute before the “X-day” -- which would once again postpone the inevitable and establish a new deadline. This attitude is unsurprising. For some time, Internet experts and companies have talked about v6, but the transition towards the new protocol has been extremely weak.
Maybe we need a different approach. Instead of looking for a killer application from the industry to trigger and speed-up v6 deployment, we should perhaps explore the design and delivery of “seamless networks” that can carry out in a pervasive manner IP protocol allocation without limitations on the number of connected devices. This would also afford the industry the opportunity to directly provide a full IP interaction between real-world sensors and IP network nodes.
There are other reasons for urging the industry to accelerate the deployment of v6. In December, many parts of the globe were hit by severe winter conditions in Europe and North America. Ice storms and low temperatures led to the closure of several airports and halted other forms of public transportation. In Asia, fears about another tsunami have increased due to earthquakes in the middle of the ocean.
Scientists in these regions believe vast sensor networks can help in organizing adequate responses to these natural occurrences. I personally experienced flight cancellations in Europe and saw first-hand the limitations of our current technology support systems. Inside airports, the high concentration of people waiting for new flights strained communication connections -- wireless and wired.
Internet portals were heavily congested, and service providers explained this was not only a matter of bandwidth but also because systems devoted to translating private IPs inside the airport towards Internet public range were overloaded and out of their reserved NAT (network address translation) range.
This congestion could have been avoided with the use of IP sensors that can collect, in near real time, parameters related to the number of people in a hall, energy consumption, number of mobile handsets, humidity, and temperature -- and then automatically negotiate with hotspot switches/routers, on-demand connections, bandwidth, and whatever systems are devoted to Internet services.
This is the role of micro IPv6. Its ability to operate with very small resources (8- or 16-bit microcontrollers) represents the “adhesive” between real-world occurrences and global network capabilities. Thanks to the “unlimited” addresses IPv6 is bringing to the field, more applications can be deployed without a hitch.
We are not dreaming. NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), the first telecom provider providing an IPv6 access network and operating the world's largest IPv6 backbone, has supported the Japanese Meteorological Agency in detecting earthquakes and helped in saving lives in the region with the use of thousands of sensors that generate warnings to people via IPv6 multicast.
PeoplePower Company, a startup in Palo Alto, Calif., has developed an innovative operating system called OSIAN, or Open Source IPv6 Automation Network, as a fundamental block to build low-cost, low-power, IPv6-ready sensors, supporting also WiFi and Zigbee -- all-in-one. According to One World Inc., this market could be worth several billions in terms of products and services within a few years, and the trend should be strongly upward. In 2011, micro IPv6 could deliver “seamless” communication.