Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dr. Vint Cerf's Keynote Address at the HHS IPv6 Symposium

ICYMI: Dr. Vint Cerf delivered a keynote address to the HHS IPv6 Symposium at the National Library of Medicine at NIH this morning. Dr. Cerf's contributions to the Internet are nearly unbelievable: he co-created TCP/IP, and can get away with saying things like, "When I turned the Internet on in January of 1983." Do yourself a favor and read his Google Research profile; he's currently Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

Dr. Cerf spoke about some of the barriers to IPv6 adoption in both the consumer and business / federal spaces. In both cases, it's a matter of need: if technologists don't pound on tables and demand IPv6 from Internet service providers and hardware / software vendors, we'll be discussing this migration for another 16 years. He cited Comcast as an example of an ISP who is leading the way with their ambitious IPv6 adoption program.

The Internet of Things (IoT for the initialization crowd) is suddenly a major driver for IPv6: with the future of sensors embedded in everything, addressing everything is only possible with IPv6. We exhausted IPv4 addresses with the devices of today; devices of tomorrow need v6.

After the address, Dr. Cerf was kind enough to field questions from the audience. Two questions in particular elicited interesting responses: the first was a question about whether IPv6 had baked-in security features that would serve to encourage faster adoption. I expected the answer to be yes, but Dr. Cerf said that this was not true, and instead it's a widely held assumption of IPv6. And the second question was, "what's next after IPv6?" The answer took an interesting turn: the development of an interplanetary network protocol, and why TCP/IP doesn't work with RTTs that exceed 7 minutes. Once again, in space, the speed of light is just too slow.

Finally, Dr. Cerf talked about his new project: the preservation of digital information. He cited some examples from our lifetime of data storage technology that is obsolete: 5 1/4" floppies, VHS cassettes, and (soon!) polycarbonate discs. In many cases, the challenge is more than just preserving the data; reading from the media, and being able to reliably interpret the data on the media, also pose great risks to the life of stored data.

I'll try to make it back this afternoon for the CIO's presentation on NIH's IPv6 Project. The monsoon-like rains may keep me at my desk. But never fear: the event is videocast here.