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Report: IPv6 transition on the horizon

By Max Burkhalter
January 27, 2011
CNET reports the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority is just weeks away from giving out the last IPv4 addresses. The IANA establishes IPv4 addresses in groups called slash-8 blocks, which include 16.8 million IP addresses. To dole out the addresses, the authority assigns the slash-8 to a Regional Internet Registry, which distributes the addresses to telecoms, hosting providers and other organizations. CNET reports the IANA now has just seven slash-8s remaining. Furthermore, the final five slash-8s will automatically be distributed evenly between the RIRs.

As a result, CNET reports the final IPv4 addresses will be distributed wholesale within a few weeks, making the transition to IPv6 imminent. CNET likened the shift from IPv4 to IPv6 to Y2K for a variety of reasons, and said the comparison is especially valid now that their is a somewhat clear deadline on when the transition will be necessary.

One of CNET's primary comparisons between the move to IPv6 and Y2K centers on how they both forced companies to overhaul their networking and data center systems. CNET's report said businesses will need to make a number of mundane changes to their information technology infrastructure to handle the IPv6 protocol. Some companies have been working on this protocol for years, CNET said, citing Google and Facebook, who have both been working to make their services IPv6 compatible for years. Whether companies are prepared for the change or not, CNET said many are having to focus on basic upgrades instead of spending for technologies that generate new revenues.

However, not everything about Y2K applies to the IPv6 transition. CNET said their is no way the IPv6 switch will completely shut down the internet. Instead, it may run slowly at times or experience other technical issues, but it will not go down entirely. The Internet Society's CTO, Leslie Daigle likened the new environment to railroad tracks. She told CNET the IPv4 is one track, and the IPv6 is another. To switch between tracks can be a time-consuming and arduous process, but it is possible.

U.S. Government agencies are already scrambling to prepare for the transition. While President Obama recently mandated all agencies make the transition to IPv6, simply preparing to function in the new protocol is not the only issue. Agencies also need to address any security issues and other unexpected changes that could arise with the new address format, according to a recent Command Information release.


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