IPv4 to end with a whimper, not a bang

With the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority issuing the final batch of IPv4 address this week, slight chaos has erupted.

By Max Burkhalter
February 4, 2011
With the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority issuing the final batch of IPv4 address this week, slight chaos has erupted, especially within companies as they determine how to proceed. Many will simply move forward and upgrade to IPv6, while others will attempt to utilize the remaining IPv4 addresses as long as they can.

The final days of IPv4 have been forecast by experts for nearly a decade now, but with the IANA handing out the final addresses, an overbearing sense of finality has set in and thrown many into a state of panic. However, a recent article from PC World writer Bruce Gain states that panic shouldn't be the normal response, but instead, eager anticipation and optimism.

"The sooner we all move to adopt IPv6, the better and brighter that future will be as our imaginations will not be stunted by clumsy IPv4 work-arounds," said Lynn St. Amour, president and CEO of the Internet Society.

Until a universal adoption of IPv6 takes place, however, IPv4 networks will continue to run and function without major change. In fact, Google estimates that only 0.2 percent of all internet users worldwide are currently relying on IPv6 connections. Gain explains that for small or home offices, not a lot of preparation is necessary for this switch. Users can actually test their PCs' IPv6 connectivity on several current sites, such as Google's IPv6-only site, ipv6.google.com, or Facebook's, reachable at www.v6.facebook.com.

Many major sites have joined in to test IPv6 connectivity on June 8 - dubbed "World IPv6 Day" - where they will support native IPv6 traffic.

"It's an exciting opportunity to take IPv6 for a test flight and try it on for a full 24 hours," said Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society's chief internet technology officer. "Hopefully, we will see positive results from this trial so we will see more IPv6 sooner rather than later."

For the millions worldwide using Windows XP or Linux, Gain believes little configuration is needed in preparation for this day and Google estimates that slightly more than 99 percent of these users won't even notice the change that day.

With IPv6's rollout continuing to be gradual, the internet will still feature IPv4 for at least another couple years. Since many users will not have to worry about heavy configuration, Gain concludes that IPv4's final days will hardly end with a bang, but rather "a whimper." And with IPv6 offering 2-to-the-128th-power amount of addresses, another IP switch won't occur for quite some time.


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