Axel Pawlik (Middle East) - The Future of Internet Development in the Middle East

As the global pool of unallocated IPv4 addresses is dwindling towards zero, Axel Pawlik, Managing Director of the RIPE NCC, the regional Internet registry for the Middle East, Europe and parts of Central Asia, explains why it is critical that Middle East organisations make IPv6 adoption their priority.

Until recently, a desktop computer has been the main gateway to the Internet for most of us. Yet, the next billion Internet users in emerging markets, including the Middle East, are likely to log on using a mobile device, and very soon everything in our offices and homes will be equipped with network connectivity.

As a result of these advancements and the proliferation of Internet-connected devices, we are running out of the current form of IP addresses, IPv4. At present, less than three percent of the pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses remains and it has been estimated that the global IPv4 pool will be expended early in 2011.

The technical community has been aware of this issue for many years - and, recognising that a new version of the addressing protocol system was required to meet future demand - developed the next generation of IP addresses, IPv6, in the mid-1990s.

Unlike IPv4 addresses, of which there are only 4,294,967,296 in total, IPv6 addresses have a longer format, allowing for about a trillion trillion trillion, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses in total. Because of its longer format, IPv6 allows for more devices to connect to the Internet, helping to safeguard the Internet's continuing expansion.

Due to the importance of the Internet for today's global economy, only a timely and efficient implementation of IPv6 can help businesses in the Middle East remain competitive. A decision not to adopt IPv6 may even hit your bottom line, as your business will remain in the "IPv4 Internet", cut-off from any new devices and websites operating only on IPv6. To illustrate, any potential customer who tries to access your website using an IPv6-only network, will not be able to find your website if it uses IPv4 only.

Ensuring that IPv6 is deployed efficiently and effectively is a major challenge for organisations in the region at present. The key to a timely and seamless IPv6 deployment lies in careful planning. As IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4, you need to ‘dual stack'. This means that any servers, routers, other hardware and software that require an IP address run both over IPv4 and IPv6. By also evaluating equipment compatibility now, the upgrade process can begin without delay, helping ensure the compatibility of your whole business. Step-by-step guides on how to ensure IPv6-readiness can be found on http://www.ipv6actnow.org/. Organisations such as the Middle East Network Operators Group offer technical training for private and public sector organisations looking to adopt IPv6.

While some early adopters in the Middle East have already deployed IPv6 in their networks, many organisations in the region haven't yet decided on an IPv6 adoption strategy. The task ahead might seem daunting, but it is important to consider that a carefully planned and strategically executed implementation is likely to be less costly and disruptive for your organisation than a last-minute, rushed roll-out. Therefore, to remain competitive, all businesses should develop a comprehensive deployment plan for their networks in 2011 and beyond. IPv6 is a vital bedrock upon which new and innovative Internet-based technologies will rely and critical in helping safeguard the continued economic growth of the Middle East.


Axel Pawli is Managing Director of the RIPE NCC, the regional Internet registry for the Middle East, Europe and parts of Central Asia.



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