RIPE NCC: A closer look at one of the companies that make the internet tick behind the scene

ITProPortal recently spoke to the RIPE NCC, about its role and the role of Regional Internet Registries. RIPE NCC stands for “Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre” and plays a vital role in the way the Internet works.

Q: What is the RIPE NCC, and what does it do?

The RIPE NCC is one of five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) that support the global operation of the Internet. The RIPE NCC is an independent, non-profit organisation that serves its membership of around 9,000 Internet Service Providers (ISPs), academic institutions and telecommunication organisations across Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.

As an RIR, the RIPE NCC is responsible for distributing and managing Internet number resources such as IPv4, IPv6 and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) within its service region. It also provides a range of member services, operates critical Internet infrastructure and provides a neutral platform for the technical community to exchange ideas.

Q: How did the RIPE NCC come into being?

As the Internet began to grow, people realised that there needed to be a way for network operators to coordinate their activities. So in 1989, Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE) was established – a collaborative forum open to anyone with an interest in wide-area IP networks.

Over time, as the RIPE community grew, they recognised the need for a secretariat to organise RIPE Meetings and assist with administration and technical coordination of the Internet in the region. This was the RIPE NCC, created in 1992 (the “NCC” stands for Network Coordination Centre). Although RIPE and the RIPE NCC are two separate entities, they are inter-connected and work closely together.

Q: Who runs the RIPE NCC and who does it work with?

The RIPE NCC is run by three sets of stakeholders: members, the Executive Board (elected by the membership) and RIPE NCC staff, who run the day-to-day operations. The managing director is Axel Pawlik, who regularly contributes blog posts to ITProPortal.

As a membership organisation, the members play a pivotal role in providing feedback on the activities carried out by the RIPE NCC. The RIPE NCC holds bi-annual RIPE meetings, where the community comes together to discuss a wide range of topics including policies and processes, share best practice and build business relationships.

The RIPE NCC works with a wide range of different stakeholders, ranging from small businesses, academic institutions, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), to governments, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and other Internet organisations.

Q: How can readers keep up-to-date with information from the RIPE NCC and Internet progression?

A great deal of the RIPE community discussions take place on mailing lists hosted by the RIPE NCC. These are publicly archived and open to anyone with an interest in the technical coordination of the Internet. There are numerous other points of contact such as Twitter (@RIPE_NCC) and Facebook, but as a central hub people can go to http://www.ripe.net to learn more about the RIPE NCC and its many facets.

Q: What are the key issues facing the Internet community today?

There are a number of issues, ranging from Internet governance and net neutrality, through to capacity building and more. But a particularly pressing issue currently is IPv4 exhaustion and IPv6 deployment.

The Internet currently runs on an addressing system called IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4). When this was first developed in the late 70s, the pool of 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses was thought to be more than enough. However, the rise in the number of mobile devices, laptops and connected machines, each requiring a unique IP address, has meant that the IPv4 pool is quickly becoming exhausted, with the RIPE NCC reaching its final block of IPv4 addresses in September 2012.

The replacement standard, IPv6, offers trillions upon trillions of addresses and is slowly being deployed across the world. However, with only around one per cent of Internet traffic currently using IPv6, there are serious concerns that it needs to be rolled-out quickly to safeguard the stability and future growth of the Internet. You can read more on this topic here on ITProPortal.