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No more IPv4? No problem

By Max Burkhalter
February 28, 2011
According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, while the switch to IPv6 has caused quite a stir in the technology world, the move will be helpful moving forward. The reason behind this assertion is that the internet now has plenty of space.

The currently dwindling generation of internet protocol offered users roughly 4 billion addresses, a lot of which, as the article’s author, Samuel Bucholtz, points out, are junk. Regardless, the final blocks of these addresses were issued by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority earlier this month, meaning the internet is out of IPv4 addresses. Many internet and technology experts predicted this occurrance for years, almost to the exact day.

While the internet first launched as an experiment, and 4 billion addresses seemed like a ridiculous number, the amount today is hardly enough. The rise of mobile devices offering internet has vastly changed the landscape, as each device needs its own IP address. Thus, each PC, mobile device and any other web-connected technology needs its own address, meaning the 4 billion locations ran out well before any thoughts of the internet fading began.

To solve the issue, the new internet protocol, IPv6, offers a number so great, the term to describe the number is obscure to most. The IP switch will go from the previous 32-bit addresses to 128 bits, creating 11 “undecillion” addresses, as the article relays. Putting 11 “undecellion” address in perspective, the figure is enough for every person to have ever lived to have 1 trillion IP addresses on their own. This fact certainly means the technology world won’t have to endure another such switch for quite some time.

While the new protocol does present some gray areas, such as its security, it offers many upgrades in addition to the increased amount of available addresses. Unlike IPv4, IPv6 is coded to require support for various security measures and works automatically with IP Security protocols. With this in place, authentication and encryption of data packets can take place at the IP level, meaning companies are able to secure their data during every step they make on the new IP generation.

While websites have begun preparing themselves for the IP switch, many of which are taking part in World IPv6 Day - a 24-hour period testing compatibility with the new protocol - Bucholtz stated the entire transition might not occur until 2021. Thus, the overwhelming sense of urgency currently might not be needed. Between this fact and the large amount of new addresses available, companies need not be as stressed about the upcoming switch.


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