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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

ALERT – Internet is full! – Or is it?

Now that I have your attention, had to share this great discussion with you that I heard on Belgian radio a month ago … yes that’s right, Belgian! J … The News Reporter was talking about how the world was coming to an end because the Internet was full and an expert on the topic suggested that without drastic action businesses and consumers alike would start to see they were no longer able to connect to the internet or for new businesses even worse might not be able to establish a web presence at all!
What am I talking about? Every device that connects to the Internet requires an IP address, sort of like a unique identifier so as when communicating with web pages and other web based services the end point your computer is contacting knows where to send the data back to that you are requesting. At the moment we are hearing more about how the Domain registries no longer have IP addresses to allocate out to new businesses seeking to establish a presence, instead suggesting they establish a smaller web presence or speak to a provider about a managed service where they can bundle IP address space with other services.
So why is this an issue, well simply put when we accelerated into the big bad world of the internet, everybody thought we would have more than enough time to manage the growth of IP enabled end points. Today we all register onto the Net with a platform known as IPv4, which has a pre-determined set of IP addresses based on variants of However the acceleration of businesses requiring visibility on the internet (because let’s face it, if you don’t have a web presence these days as a business, then don’t bother starting a business!), the number of worldwide users which have exploded over the years and last but not least the rapid expansion of IP enabled mobile devices and services all requiring IP address space in order to manage. So we can all acknowledge there has clearly been an enormous increase in the demand for IP address space, but are we really full?
Much like the early days of the Olympics when we were told that all tickets were sold you can see empty seats (I know this was quickly resolved – before anyone thinks this is an article on that happy topic!), similarly is it for the Internet. Although we are told internet addresses are all used up, we have to ask the question, if that were the case then how is it we are still seeing the growth of businesses and additional mobile devices being added? Well if you look behind the curtains you will see that although Domain Co-ordinators have run out of IP addresses to allocate – or nearly, there are a large number of Telecom, IT and even businesses that have kept a large number of IP addresses “in case they need them later” to support the expansion of their businesses. Hence in reality we still have a large number of IP addresses which if released back into the pool could allow the various organizations to manage the allocation in the most optimal way. Similar to the way airlines over book flights, if you don’t turn up to use your seat it will be allocated to someone else.
Of course those familiar with discussions around IP addresses will know that the industry has come up with a solution to the problem in the form of IPv6, which among greater functionality and flexibility will meet the growing needs of our increasingly digital world in the form of considerably more IP address space. However I would challenge the industry to look at other industries where the assumption of simply adding more capacity will solve the problems of accessibility and continue to cope with the growing demands of volume – which usually results in only accelerating the problem. Ultimately a different approach is required, as occurs with all growth industries, it can no longer be about simply adding more.
We need a new model which allocates IP addresses based on actual demand (i.e. active utilization), every single device doesn’t need its unique IP address merely those that are active. Because IP addresses do not have a price they normally are not viewed as an incremental cost by businesses acquiring them. Unlike all other aspects of infrastructure that a business would have to pay for IP addresses are not one of them, if a business had to pay for them then all of a sudden we would see a more efficient utilization. I am not suggesting here that we turn IP addresses into a profit item, but merely to derive a value and change the approach to how they are utilized.
Perhaps one way to approach this would be to have any revenue made from the sale of IP addresses to go to an Innovation Forum targeted at introducing new solutions which will enable businesses and consumers to realize the ongoing benefits of the Internet and how it can contribute to collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing.  The Internet is one thing which connects us all, and will be a crucial vehicle for businesses and consumers alike to engage with each other, but we must give it the breathing room to continue to evolve and treat it like any other asset – Simple! … Right?
This blog is dedicated to a friend who likes to keep things simple – hopefully this is simple enough! J


dougperis said...

When it's free or very cheap, there's little incentive to be frugal or prudent with IP address usage. A bit like disk space these many gazillion bytes are wallowing in thumb drives in people's desk drawers or the uncountable Hotmail and Gmail accounts with their allocation of 2GB storage? People react to basic stimuli like, "no money, no honey", so let the ISPs charge a fee...although I suspect like the Singapore COE, it only deters the marginal fringe and people just go ahead with the Porsche purchase anyway.

Adam Nardella said...

"We need a new model which allocates IP addresses based on actual demand (i.e. active utilization), every single device doesn’t need its unique IP address merely those that are active".

That model used to exist. Back in the early days of GPRS, devices in normal standby mode did not have an IP address for circuit switched voice and SMS traffic. Devices would only be assigned an IP address via PDP Context Activation when they had an active packet switched session for data traffic. Once the packet data session was finished the IP address would be released back into either the GGSN DHCP pool or external RADIUS / DHCP server for other devices to use.
Granted, this probably wouldn't work in todays "always connected" society though, where users want 24x7 IP connectivity for WhatsApp, Viber, skype, and every other IM app that requires constant access to the packet network.