IPV6 as an election manifesto

I have been wanting to write this post for sometime - primarily to educate our upcoming political leaders on what is needed to realize their dream (real or concocted) for a highly connected India. Recently, there have been posts by people like Sudheendra Kulkarni (of the BJP - surprisingly the Congress has no opinions) about IT as an enabler for economic development in Indian villages.

Let me not go into how computing technology can improve the lives of millions - let me go into a beginners guide on how you can achieve it.

India, sort of pole-vaulted into the wireless era without digging holes for the wired digital age. What was unfortunate a decade ago, positions us - and for that matter, China - into building next generation communication systems on wireless 3G and even 4g. Hell, Europe is testing beyond-4G equipment already. As the IPhone and the Kindle demonstrate, the next generation of information exchange will happen over mobile devices and NOT over cheap laptops (which is why, correctly, India stood alone in rejecting the OLPC).

Once you consider the effect of mobile devices, what staggers you is scale. It should be pretty obvious on the size of the consumer base, possessing a mobile device in rural, as well as urban India.

Connecting them, is no easy task.

To get on the internet, every ”device” needs an address. Currently, it is something called IPV4 - and this is horribly skewed towards First world countries. For example, one can see a list of private and semi-public institutions in the US possessing atleast 16581375 IP addresses (or, Class A address space in jargon).

Going by this, the IPV4 exhaustion date is sometime in 2011.

It should be recognized that by the end of 2011, there will be new clients and servers on the Internet which have no choice but to only have an IPv6 address. For the rest of the Internet to be able to communicate with them they should then be able to: a) serve to IPv6 customers, and b) to access IPv6 servers. Within scalable solutions, the first requires Internet-facing servers to be on IPv6, and the second requires pretty much all devices to be on IPv6.

In, 2008 there came the Beijing Olympics and with it, an opportunity to showcase the country’s infrastructure. The CNGI (China Next Generation Internet), set up a backbone of IPV6 for the Olympics and used to monitor things like sprinkler systems, thermostats and taxis on the internet. As I might have indicated, doing things like that, become much easier because of IPV6 - not because the devices themselves become cheaper. No. Because the infrastructure needed to support such a massive proliferation, is much, much simpler.

Now, first world countries are safe guarded by a) lower population b) lesser proliferation of mobile devices c) large blocks of pre-allocated IPV4 addresses. Which makes it, less of an incentive to invest in the hardware upgrade toward IPV6.

People argue that it is too disruptive for businesses and everyday users that there will be an uproar. I disagree - IPV6 is either bundled in several operating systems (Linux, Mac) or can be installed in a single click (Windows). What will be impacted are the routers, which would need a firmware upgrade(supplied by the vendor) to function - not as disruptive as actually dumping the hardware and buying newer versions.

I am concerned about the lack of initiative on this front - my future depends on it. I do not want to miss out on building the next generation Google, because it is unusable for the majority of India’s potential users. This, is what I am looking out for in our elections.


IPV6 as an election manifesto


March 23, 2009

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