Welcome IPv6, the enabler of a larger version of the Internet
Posted on June 6th, 2012
“Today is the launch day of IPv6”. This statement made the headlines in the news all over the world, today. Articles are concerned how tech companies deal with the adoption of the new protocol and how it impacts data centre providers. But what does the launch IPv6 actually mean?
Nowadays, there are billions of devices connecting to the Internet and experts predict their number to be steadily growing in the near future. Everybody wants to be online from anywhere, at any time. That’s the most basic explanation why we need to transition from Internet protocol IPv4 to IPv6. It is necessary because we basically need a larger Internet, thus more addresses for websites and more access for all the mobile devices that are currently used all over the world.
To elaborate on this a little further, let’s go back to the origins of the Internet. The Internet was originally designed in 1973 and finally launched in 1983. Back then, it was merely a promising experiment and no one really knew how it would be adopted. That’s why a number of 4.3 billion designed termination points (Internet addresses) seemed likely to last forever. But the creators of the Internet did not account for what many call the “Information Revolution” or the birth of the “Information Age”.
Due to the global adoption of the Internet and countless smart tech devices that allow their users to go online from almost anywhere, we currently face an exhaustion of IPv4. That means by now iPv4 is approaching full deployment on a global scale. Fortunately, the limits of IPv4 have been acknowledged at a much earlier stage and already in 1996, scientists and technology specialists started to develop a new protocol called IPv6. “To continue the operation of the Internet, Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) was created. This address space is vast–more than 170 undecillion addresses–and unlikely to be depleted in the next 50 years.”* To be precise, there is space for 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. **
Today is the the day the IPv6 protocol is officially being launched. The transition form IPv4 to IPv6 in the long run matters to every network expecting to grow. What is very important in this regard, is that IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible. “This means that any device that wishes to be “online” must be compatible with both protocols for some time to work properly.”* For certain period of time, both protocols will run on the same wires although they do not interact. Furthermore, all browsers and most modern operating systems are ready for the transition, thus they run both protocols simultaneously.
Nevertheless, not all hardware supports this kind of “dual stacking”. That is why data centre providers currently face the challenge to assess how to update their infrastructure and IT assets. New equipment selections need to support both versions to make sure that client networks run smoothly.
* 2012. Donaldson, R. Data Centers & IPv6: Why It Matters to You. Retrieved from http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2011/06/28/data-centers-ipv6-why-it-matters-to-you/
** 2012. Rashid, F. What to expect for IPv6 Launch Day. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2405357,00.asp