On 6th June 2012 a number of companies will enable IPv6 permanently on their systems as we steadily move to a larger number of IP addresses. But just how close are we to IPv6 ?
Currently the internet runs on IP version 4 (IPv4). This is the communication infrastructure used by all devices connected to the internet. Basically, every device must have a unique IP address, however when IPv4 was first used in the early 1980 no one envisaged that we could run out of the 4.2 billion unique addresses IPv4 delivers.
In February 2011 the internet in effect ran out of addresses — the last batch of dynamic addresses were issued to an internet provider. Although not totally catastrophic it means we need to act fast as the internet grows beyond its technical limits.
The solution, first developed in the 1990s, is IP version 6 (IPv6). This delivers over 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses — more than we could ever use (there are roughly 7 billion people alive in the world). Sadly it is not simply a matter of enabling IPv6; beyond the address structure change, the header and packet structure is different to IPv4.
Some of the key issues requiring attention:
- All internet routers (connecting countries, cities, and even your home) need software updates (and possibly new hardware)
- Computer operating systems need to recognise IPv6 (Windows, Mac, Mobiles, etc)
- Internet providers need to start issuing IPv6 addresses to users
- Web servers require IPv6 addresses
In June 2011 some key players on the internet had a test day to prove connectivity and stability of their IPv6 solutions. The trial lasted 24 hours and was deemed a success.
Now, on 8 June 2012, major ISPs and internet companies are enabling IPv6 permanently, obviously running alongside IPv4 — World IPv6 Launch day.
In reality there is almost nothing a home user can do, other than wait while manufacturers catch up. Luckily most recent operating systems are already IPv6 ready, however your home router and/or ISP probably is not.
If you are curious as to the readiness of your own setup, visit http://test-ipv6.iad.vr.org and run the quick test.
May the force be with us all!