The world’s supply of unique internet addresses is running out. IPv4, the current internet addressing scheme, has exhausted its four billion plus addresses. IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol, is being implemented worldwide and major web content providers including Facebook, Yahoo and Google and the industry’s leading companies will be working together on June 8 to conduct a 24 hour “test flight” of their efforts to bring IPv6 into reality. The goal of having this “test flight” day is to motivate all the players in the internet industry to start preparing for the transition to IPv6. It will also provide the opportunity to discover IPv6 connectivity issues in existing network hardware.

The move to IPv6 represents a major step in the evolution of the internet and will bring many benefits:

  • It permits many more devices and users on the internet.
  • It allows greater efficiency in routing network traffic.
  • It eliminates the need for network address translation (NAT) used to get around the address limitations of IPv4.
  • It simplifies aspects of address assignment by implementing stateless address autoconfiguration.
  • It allows network renumbering (prefix and router announcements) when changing Internet connectivity providers.
  • It creates a parallel, independent network due to a lack of backward compatibility with IPv4.
  • It provides for the transmission of a packet of data to multiple destinations in a single send operation (multicasting).
  • It includes support for network layer security.
  • It simplifies both the packet header and the process of packet forwarding.
  • It allows network mobility.
  • It implements Jumbograms (4 gigabytes packets).
  • And it incorporates the ability have to end-to-end encryption between devices.

Currently, only a small percentage of the internet has adopted IPv6, but by 2016 most of the internet’s backbone will be running the new protocol. Implementation has been slow due to a lack IPv6 content, technical and design deficiencies that have yet to be addressed and an absence of financial incentives. Because IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4 both protocols with exist on parallel networks, which is known as a duel stack implementation. Companies may opt to support separate sites or apps for each protocol or to implement a hybrid approach that uses IPV6 addresses that are mapped to IPv4. Networks which continue to use IPv4 will be able to access IPv6 addresses through the use of tunneling which is a process of transmitting IPv6 packets within IPv4.

Most users will not notice any changes during World IPv6 Day. Those that use IPv6 can test their connectivity by visiting those sites participating in IPv6 Day. If your business is dependent on the internet now is the time to begin your transition in order to avoid costly down times or loss of customers. Considering these questions:

  • Is your IT staff aware of IPv6?
  • What is the status of your Internet Service Provider’s IPv6 connectivity?
  • How compatible is your existing network? What steps are needed to make it IPv6 compatible?
  • Are you including IPv6-readiness in future equipment upgrades?

With proper planning and implementation your company will not be left behind as IPv6 replaces IPv4. In my next post I will discuss some of the issues and concerns that businesses will face as they switch to IPv6.

For more information, see:

World IPv6 Day

Resolving Internet connectivity issues on World IPv6 Day (June 8, 2011)

Panic time quiz: How prepared are you for IPv6?

Test your IPv6 connectivity