Vint Cerf Explains The New Larger Internet - IPv6

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vint Cerf

Major Internet service providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies around the world are coming together to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services by 6 June 2012. Organized by the Internet Society, and building on the successful one-day World IPv6 Day event held on 8 June 2011, World IPv6 Launch represents a major milestone in the global deployment of IPv6. As the successor to the current Internet Protocol, IPv4, IPv6 is critical to the Internet's continued growth as a platform for innovation and economic development.
When the Internet launched operationally in 1983, no one ever dreamed that there might be billions of devices and users trying to get online. But like a telephone network that is running out of phone numbers, the current Internet is running out of IP addresses, and without a roll out Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6), there will be no room to grow and the Internet would become tangled, unsafe and unsustainable.

30 years ago, when the now-famous engineer, Vint Cerf was helping to design the technology that powers the Internet, he decided just how many devices could connect to the network. His answer -- 2 to the 32nd power, or 4.3 billion it looked awfully big at the time.

A few decades later, we now know it's far short. Accordingly, Google's chief Internet evangelist, is eager for tomorrow's high-profile World IPv6 Launch.

The event will usher in a vastly larger Internet as many major powers move permanently to the next-generation Internet Protocol version 6 technology. IPv6 is big enough to give a network address to 340 undecillion devices -- that's 2 to the 128th power, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 if you're keeping score.

The change actually began years ago: IPv6 was finished in 1996, IPv6 networks could be constructed since 1999, and any personal computer bought in the last few years can handle IPv6 if configured properly. But because IPv4 was spacious enough for a long time, moving to IPv6 was a potentially expensive hassle that didn't have much immediate payoff. It was only last year, when the pipeline of unused IPv4 addresses started emptying out, that a sense of real urgency gripped the computing industry.

The IPv6 transition will take years as Internet gradually is updated with the ability transfer packets of IPv6 data from point A to point B. That transfer uses technology that Cerf and colleague Bob Kahn invented in the 1970s. It's called TCP/IP, and it's what wires together the Net's nervous system.

When you download a photo from a server, it's the job of the Internet Protocol (IP) to break the image up into individually addressed chunks of data called packets, then deliver them to your computer. Countless network devices in between examine the IP address of each packet to send them hop by hop toward to your machine so IP can reassembles them into the photo.

Closely paired is Transmission Control Protocol, which takes care of ensuring packets are successfully delivered over this packet-switching network. Curious people can read the original paper, A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication (PDF), written before TCP and IP were split into separate technology layers. Cerf is a somewhat unusual figure in today's Internet development realm. Hotshot young programmers are pushing the limits of Web programming and other novelties, but Cerf, born in 1943, has a much longer history watching the cutting edge advance. He witnessed the arrival of e-mail, e-commerce, and emoticons.

In the video below, Cerf discusses the next version of the Internet, IPv6, and why we need it.

Cerf is VP and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He served at MCI, the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, at DARPA and as a member of the Stanford University Faculty. Cerf co-invented the architecture and basic protocols of the Internet. He has received the U.S. National Medal of Technology, ACM Turing award, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Japan Prize.

Vint Cerf served as chairman of the board of ICANN and as founding president of the Internet Society. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, ACM, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium, the Computer History Museum, the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Cerf holds a BS degree from Stanford University and MS and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. He also has received twenty honorary degrees.


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