Asia Looks for Lead on Next-Gen Internet

Faced with a far more urgent need to support more Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the Asian nations of Japan, South Korea and China are looking to lead the move to IPv6, considered by many to be the next-generation Internet.

Unlike the United States — which still has a bountiful supply of the Internet addresses that connect separate networks and devices to the Internet — the Asian countries face a serious shortage of IP addresses, largely because of the mass popularity of mobile phones and other devices that have consumed the region’s more limited amount of IP addresses. The fact that some U.S. universities have more IP addresses than all of China illustrates the differences between the two regions.

As a result, Japan, South Korea and China are collaborating to move more quickly from today’s IPv4 protocols to the next-generation Internet protocol addresses that are 128 bits in length compared to today’s 32 bits in length. The new protocol will represent an exponential increase in the number of possible addresses.

Some worry that U.S. technology companies such as IBM, Cisco and Microsoft might be left behind by the Asian efforts, led by companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC and Samsung, but Yankee Group senior analyst Zeus Kerravala doubted there was much cause for concern.

“If people were using other features of IPv6 besides more IP addresses, like embedded security, I would say yes, but the only value of version 6 is more IP addresses,” Kerravala told TechNewsWorld. “There’s nobody taking advantage of other IPv6 features, so I don’t think it’s going to give anybody a competitive advantage.”

Proactive on Protocol

Recent reports out of Asia indicate that the region’s technology companies are aiming to lead the effort to transition to IPv6, mandating some adoption of the newer technology as soon as 2005.

While U.S. efforts include Department of Defense testing and teamwork with Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, HP, Sun and others, North America is not under nearly the same pressure to produce more possible IP addresses and is unlikely to begin adopting IPv6 for at least eight years, according to Kerravala.

“Quite frankly, it’s not our problem,” he said.

Pressure and Opportunity

While the need to move to IPv6 might not be nearly as urgent in the U.S. as it is in Asia, U.S. companies and the government are nevertheless beginning to push for deployment of the new protocol, Enterasys chief technology officer John Roese told TechNewsWorld.

Roese said that since the U.S. government represents the world’s biggest IT customer, developers are accelerating their deployment of IPv6 technologies to capitalize on the domestic government market.

Roese said Enterasys is among U.S. companies advancing IPv6 initiatives and supporting the newer protocol in its product line right now.

Problems Already Solved

Yankee’s Kerravala said that although U.S. companies certainly cannot ignore the migration to IPv6, the new protocol in America is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

“Whatever benefits there are in IPv6, we’ve already solved in patch work, Network Address Translation (NAT) and other things,” Kerravala said. “I don’t know what the benefits would be for U.S. companies to migrate to this.”

In addition, Kerravala said that while IPv6 might be well suited to a laboratory setting, the next-gen protocol would not run very well in a real-world production environment today.

Rather than a rapid, widespread adoption of IPv6 in Asia, the analyst predicted the emergence of “islands” of the new protocol. In the United States, Kerravala said adoption might not begin for nearly another decade.

“Then, its pick-up will be slow,” Kerravala said. “Version 4 will be the dominant protocol for a long time.”

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