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Jun 06

Today Is World IPv6 Day But What Is IPv6?


Today (6th June 2012) is World IPv6 day and it’s the day that many websites, Internet service providers and other companies adopt the next generation of Internet Network protocol. But what is IPv6? The best place to start is by understanding how we currently connect to the internet via IPv4

IPv4

This is the protocol that we are all currently using. Every device that connects to the internet is given an IP address. This includes computers, tablets, consoles, mobile phones, televisions. Anything that connects to the internet needs to have an IP address. Think of an IP address as you would your house address, an IP address is your little bit of real estate on the internet where the internet postman delivers your mail and data.

IPv4 Internet addresses take a format similar to 100.101.102.103. The limitations of IPv4 is that you are limited on the number of devices that can be connected. IPv4 can give out 4.3 billion addresses which may seem like a lot but is quickly eaten up when you consider the number of devices that connect to the internet and need an address. For example in our home we have 4 devices that all require their own individual address on the internet. This includes tablet, mobile phones, computer. You can see how quickly 4.3 billion can be reached especially when there are an estimated 2.5 billion internet users. If everyone had 2 devices that required an address we would already be past the 5 Billion mark!

So is IPv6 the solution?

Since early in the 1990s it was realised that eventually we would run out eventually within the next 20 to 25 years. In fact the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre ran out of addresses in April 2011 with Europe and North America expected to follow suite in the next 12 -18 Months.

connecting to the internet

Click to enlarge and see the basic of how we connect to the internet via IPv4

IPv6 solves this problem as it makes available more that 360 Trillion Trillion Trillion! Yes that is significantly more than IPv4 and should see us covered for a very long time.

The addresses will now be a lot more complex consisting of 8 groups of 16bit hexadecimal numbers that are separated by colons. An example of an IPv6 address could be

2001:0:4ef3:79fb:3bb5:21cc:2f56:fe83

Sounds easy…

Unfortunately it is not as simple as swapping the 2 protocols over as they are not compatible with each other. There is also the problem with older devices that do not support IPv6 that will have to be overcome.

Who’s taking the lead

Some of the world’s most recognised names are already swapping over to dual stack network solutions (implements IPv4 and IPv6 protocol stacks either independently or in a hybrid form). The likes of Facebook, Yahoo, Google and government sites are already making the transition to IPv6. The transfer is slow but the realisation that traffic has to move over to the new protocol is slowly kicking in.


Do I need to do anything

You should not need to do anything in the near future your transfer to IPv6 will be handled by your ISP. You may need to reconfigure VPN`s or routers once the swap takes place but this should not be too difficult and help should be provided by your ISP.

Overall IPv6 is not only needed it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL if we want the internet to continue to grow as there is no more space available as it currently stands. The last 16 million blocks were assigned early last year and times are getting quite desperate. It’s time to move the internet from a cot to a big boy bed!!