IPv6, IANA transition headline APNIC meeting

Will new deputy secretary cool ITU's controversial ambitions?

No necktie required at APNIC 38. Left to right: Houlin Zhao, ITU deputy secretary general; Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Minister of Communications; Paul Wilson, APNIC general director.

No necktie required at APNIC 38. Left to right: Houlin Zhao, ITU deputy secretary general; Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Minister of Communications; Paul Wilson, APNIC general director.

Spurring adoption of IPv6 and promoting a smooth transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) are key Internet governance priorities for the year ahead, according to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).

In interviews with Computerworld Australia at APNIC 38 in Brisbane, APNIC general director Paul Wilson and chief scientist Geoff Huston detailed small but accelerating progress on IPv6.

Wilson also spoke about his role in the group overseeing the IANA stewardship transition and gave his thoughts on the International Telecommunication Union’s sometimes controversial proposals on Internet governance.

Internode – fantastic job. Everyone else – crap job

Geoff Huston on IPv6

The (slow) shift to IPv6

IPv6 provides about 340 undecillion IP addresses, compared to the 4 billion addresses supported by IPv4. As the number of Internet-connected devices has grown, exhaustion of IPv4 addresses has necessitated the adoption of IPv6.

Even so, global adoption of IPv6 remains small, at about 4.5 per cent.

The good news is that the rate of adoption has accelerated throughout the year, said Wilson.

APNIC is providing technical training of engineers in an effort to push more people across from IPv4, he said. The organisation had three parallel five-day workshops in the first week of APNIC 38.

“ISPs around the region are stretched [thin] in terms of having the human resources to manage network resources properly,” he said.

“But the difference between a network which is stable, secure and efficient and one which is not can just be a matter of training.”

Convincing ISPs to make the move can be a challenge because going IPv6 does not provide an immediate return on investment, he said. However, in the long term IPv6 will provide great efficiencies for organisations, he said.

APNIC chief scientist Geoff Huston has been measuring IPv6 adoption and performance through a unique use of Google ads.

“Because Google’s ads go all over the planet, and you only play when they click, it’s actually quite easy to set up a relatively inexpensive program.”

APNIC measures 500,000 unique users every day by having the impression of an online ad serve an invisible pixel by TCP. The process of serving this pixel generates information about the capabilities of the user's networked environment.

To minimise costs, Huston has made the ad “suitably dull,” he said. It just says, “Thank you for helping us measure IPv6. It’s bland and factual.”

APNIC chief scientist Geoff Huston
APNIC chief scientist Geoff Huston

Huston shared some of his IPv6 data on an APNIC 38 panel about IPv6 performance.

What’s clear from the results is that IPv6 has not yet reached a tipping point where it will be taken up en masse, he said. “There about 20 [major] providers on the planet that are visibly doing stuff,” he said.

In Australia, it’s not great, he said. “Internode – fantastic job. Everyone else – crap job.”

More will move to IPv6 when adoption gains steam, he predicted. “This industry has always been brutally simple: I’ll do what everybody else does.”

What’s difficult to say is how many ISPs need to do IPv6 before that tipping point is reached, he said.

“We had this thing unconsciously when horses got replaced by cars. At some point, the cars had to live on the terms of the streets with horses. But at some time 100 years ago, the pendulum shifted and the horses were visitors in streets made for cars.”

IANA stewardship transition

Wilson is one of two Australians serving on the NTIA/IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group, which is overseeing the process that will see the US government give up its involvement in overseeing the Domain Name System (DNS).

“There’s a fair amount of work to do between now and next May or June” when the group must submit a proposal to the US government, he said. The NTIA contract expires in September 2015.

“That work has started, and it’s been distributed across the communities of interest in IANA,” he said. “We had to define ourselves and our working methods and our timelines.”

There have already been two meetings, which occurred alongside the ICANN conference in London and the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul. Wilson said there will be five regional meetings over the next six months—the first happened on Wednesday at APNIC 38.

It should be “easy enough” to find agreement on the numbering and protocol roles of the IANA, said Wilson. “They literally are just registries – they’re lists that IANA manages.”

However, IANA’s role in naming will be more difficult, he said. “Whoever’s got the keys to that thing, they’re the ones who create new [top-level domains] … They’ve got the ability to change [and] withdraw country codes, which is a huge political sovereignty issue.”

Speaking about the IANA transition in an APNIC 38 keynote, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged world leaders to maintain a multi-stakeholder model for governance of the Internet.

Wilson applauded Turnbull’s comments and noted that the minister has actively sought to learn about the IANA transition and contribute where he can, said Wilson.

“The Australian government really punches above its weight. They are really hard working in these intergovernmental discussions. They’re well known, influential and they make a difference.”

Role of the ITU

Houlin Zhao is the only candidate to be the next secretary general of the ITU.
Houlin Zhao is the only candidate to be the next secretary general of the ITU.

In a keynote at APNIC 38, Houlin Zhao – the likely next secretary general of International Telecommunication Union – pledged that the ITU would not try to take over governance of the Internet.

If elected on 23 October this year, Zhao will "work together with all stakeholders ... on the future development of Internet services," he said.

However, Wilson cautioned that the ITU could still make a power grab regardless of the opinions of its secretary general.

“No matter what he says from his secretariat point of view … the ITU is an intergovernmental organisation, so what they do and the positions they have are purely in the hands of their governmental delegates.”

“It’s a political organisation, and the decisions are political.”

For example, at the ITU’s World Telecommunications Policy Forum last year, the ITU without warning issued a proposal to take a strong role in IP address management, he said. “There was no pre-announcement that this would come up.”

One of the African governments that supported the ITU proposal later confessed later they had done so only because they were in a dispute over sanctions with the US.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with the content of the decision,” said Wilson. “It was just purely political.”

Adam Bender flew to Brisbane as a guest of APNIC.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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