The existing Internet Protocol system, IPv4 supports a maximum of about 4.3 billion IP addresses. As large as this number may look, experts say we will run out of IP addresses soon if a new system that allows for a lot more IP addresses is not implemented on the Internet. The Internet Society has just announced that the IPv6 the next generation Internet Protocol that will do just that will be launched on June 6, 2012.
Each device connected to a network using the internet protocol requires an IP address to communicate on the network. When IP version 4 was being conceived we had only computers to connect to networks, so designers never expected 4 billion IP addresses will be inadequate for the Internet.
But today, many devices mobile phones, tablets, netbooks, TVs, Refrigerators, Cars, etc now compete for the limited IPv4 IP addresses with computers. So, you can now appreciate that we need more IP addresses or the growth of the internet could be stifled.
Although there are techniques for supporting more devices with the limited IPv4 addresses, experts say they add complexity and are expensive. In fact, we are currently using these techniques since we officially ran out of IP addresses in 2011 according to the Internet Society. The permanent solution is a new Internet Protocol that allows for a lot more IP addresses.
The new Internet Protocol is IPv6 and uses 128 bits to represent IP addresses, a lot more than the 32 bits for IPv4. This allows IPv6 to support over 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses (3.403×1038 unique IP addresses). Yes, wow a very large number.
Of course, a major transition on the internet needs to be tested. IPv6 was quietly tested for 24 hours on June 8, 2011. Companies like Google and Facebook participated in the test.
So, on June 6, 2012 the transition to IPv6 will officially begin. According to the Internet Society, “Top websites, Internet service providers, and home networking equipment manufacturers” are committed to this transition. Some companies participating in this historic transition include Cisco, D-Link, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AT&T, Bing, etc.
Most users will not even notice any difference in their experience except for very few users who may experience technical problems.
This post was inspired by the post June 6th 2012: IPv6 goes live on Engadget.
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