On Sept. 23 China announced the launch of the world’s largest pure next-generation Internet. Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) will replace the current Internet, which is Internet Protocol Version 4. The Chinese network, called CNGI-CERNET2/6IX, or CERNET2 for short, and broadly referred to by the name China Next-Generation Internet (CNGI) project, currently links 167 institutes at 25 universities, in 20 different cities (a long articlein the Chinese journal Internet Society from Chinanews.com notes that the average age of researchers is 33). It also has links to telecom operators China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, China Tietong, as well as partner equipment providers ZTE, Tsinghua Unisplendor and Tsinghua Tongfang. CERNET2 uses Chinese IPv6 routers rather than the foreign routers that support the current network around the world. Chinese experts say it will take about ten years to make the full transition from IPv4 to IPv6.
A few thoughts to share. CNGI will:
move data at around 100 times current Internet speeds.
support online streaming video at unprecented levels.
allow the over 160 various departments and institutions on CERNET2 to set up experimental labs and conduct research into new applications that we may not have seen before.
position Chinese router companies like ZTE and Huawei in the forefront of producing 10-Gigabit core routers for IPv6 infra around the world. IPv4 system routers are what have made the fortunes of companies like Cisco and Juniper Networks.
allow China to develop new standards for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which develops and promotes Internet standards. The Chinese are hoping their standards will significantly shape the development of IPv6. China has already prepared a number of standards for the IETF.
position Chinese science and technology as a force to be reckoned with. It’s already (and rightfully so) a source of great pride to Chinese. As Cui Yong, assistant professor in the computer science department at Qinghua University, says in the Internet Society article: “We want to let [the IETF] see that Chinese technology indeed has a great deal of innovation and excellence, and irreplaceability, which will play a large role in furthering the progress of the global next generation Internet. At the last meeting when a[n IETF] Vice Director asked the 200 participants for their opinions on the blueprint that we have provided, the blueprint received widespread support. I have a vivid memory of the excitement and encouragement in the room.”
be unveiled at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which will provide the world’s biggest marketing platform, letting foreign media and tourists experience IPv6 themselves.
A little history helps provide context for the concept of the next-gen Internet. This must-read July editorial in CIO magazine by Ben Worthen explains why the current IPv4 Internet is becoming outdated:
[In 1983 the developers of the Internet] adopted an addressing system, IPv4, so that computers connected to the Internet could each have a unique identity for recognizing and communicating with each other. The addressing scheme, which uses a series of four decimal values, each of which can be a number from 0 to 255 (also known as 32-bit addressing), has a total of 4.3 billion possible addresses. In 1976, when computer engineers Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn developed IPv4, that seemed like plenty. “[A longer address] sounded just a little excessive in 1976,” Cerf said at a government roundtable in 2004. “I mean, after all, [the Internet] was an experiment. So I thought, well, 4.3 billion addresses should be enough for an experiment.”
With the rapid growth of the Internet through the 1990’s, there was a rapid reduction in the number of free IP addresses available under IPv4, which was never designed to scale to these levels. In order to get more addresses, you need more bits, which means a longer IP address, which means a new
architecture, which means changes to all of the routing software. In other words, a major change on which everyone needs to agree, and does not come about quickly.
IPv6 increases IP addresses from 4 decimal values to 16–giving us a practically infinite number of IP addresses.
Some reactions to the announcement last week: I found this thread on Broadband Reports.com, in response to the recent news. It tailspins amazingly quickly into tired rhetoric from Americans about a) how it doesn’t matter anyway because China has no free speech (I guess the idea here is that the most important thing about the Internet is that it allows people to talk about politics–a pretty narrow view); b) how China is just copying “our” technology and has can’t innovate (sounds like sour grapes); and from Chinese about how great China is and how it will dominate the world.
For further reading:
China IPv6 Council (unfortunately their server is down as I write this and I can’t tell you anything about it)