The time has finally come, or at least it is coming soon. After 30 odd years of use, the internet is running out of IP addresses. This doesn’t mean the end of the world or anything like that, so you can take off your 2012 tin foil hats. But, it does mean that some major web companies are stepping up to hasten the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. On June 8, 2011 a global IPv6 test is on the menu!
IPv4’s days are numbered and it is currently estimated that of the possible ~4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, less than 5% of the possible addresses are remaining; some believe that number is as low as 2% with an estimated depletion date of February 14, 2011. Needless to say, we need more numbers.
What’s the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?
Created in 1980, IPv4 addresses consist of a 32-bit numerical range that goes from 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255. In total, that gives us 4,294,967,296 possible addresses less the ~288 million addresses that are reserved for private use and multicast. So IPv4 addresses are old school and when you consider that we now have 1.5 billion people around the globe who actively use the Internet, 4+ billion addresses just won’t cut it anymore.
Now, the new IPv6 protocol uses a 128-bit hexadecimal range that separates 16-bit values using colons instead of periods. An example IPv6 address would look like 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:1 or fe30::200:f8ff:fe22:67cf. Understanding how IPv6 addresses are generated can be a bit tricky to understand, but the important part is that using this system we can generate a total of 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 different unique IP addresses. If you want to say that number out loud, repeat after me: “340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 938 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456.” If you were to divide this out, every square cm on the surface of the Earth would get ~100 unique addresses.
Why IPv6 Day?
As said, IPv4 addresses will be exhausted sometime in February. Home users shouldn’t be affected by this change, since we have temporary fixes such as NAT and other Kludges. But such fixes increase operating costs, and won’t work forever. Big web companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are going to be the ones taking a hit and hence why they are onboard for IPv6 day.
At present, only a very small percentage of Internet users connect via IPv6. The problem behind this is primarily infrastructure. Web servers need technology that incorporates dual-stack (a hybrid of both IPv4 and IPv6) technology because not everyone will be switching at once. Additionally, most network equipment doesn’t have the firmware to support IPv6 and the manufacturers are lagging behind with updates (*cough* Samsung).
World IPv6 Day will be the first public test of the new protocol on a global scale. If everything goes as planned, it will show that we are ready to move into full-time use of IPv6 quickly following the test day. The head of IPv6 Day, The Internet Society, estimates that only %0.05 of users will experience downtime.
Will This Affect Home Users?
For the most part, no. If you are a home users your Internet will likely still be connecting via IPv4 on the test day. And, when it comes time to move over to IPv6 your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will handle the grunt work. The only thing you will need to do is update the firmware on your router or any other networking equipment that is running in your home. To learn more about World IPv6 Day from a corporate standpoint check out The Internet Society’s official website.