You may have avoided moving your network to IPv6 for years, but you won’t be able to put it off much longer. Here’s why you need to plan for a transition.
Every few years there’s another panic about everyone running out of IP addresses. The terror that the Internet would simply run out of room is finally coming true. It’s not so much that computers are consuming the IP addresses; it’s all those smartphones, iPads, and other devices that require Internet access.
The Number Resource Organization (NRO), the organization that oversees the allocation of all Internet number resources, announced in January 2010 that less than 10% of available IPv4 addresses remain unallocated.
“It is vital that the Internet community take considered and determined action to ensure the global adoption of IPv6,” Axel Pawlik, chairman of the NRO, said in a statement. “The limited IPv4 addresses will not allow us enough resources to achieve the ambitions we all hold for global Internet access.”
IP addresses are allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which in turn is run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). IANA distributes IP addresses to regional Internet registry (RIRs) who issue these addresses to ISPs and from the ISPs to you. “This is the time for the Internet community to act,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and CEO. “For the global Internet to grow and prosper without limitation, we need to encourage the rapid widespread adoption of the IPv6 protocol.”
When the Internet began (then called ARPANet), IPv4′s possible 32-bit 4.3 billion addresses looked like it would be more than enough. That was then. This is now.
Since the NRO made its announcement, we’re now down to 6% of possible Internet addresses being available. According to IP address distribution statistics, IANA will run out of addresses to distribute on August 9, 2011 and the RIRs will assign its last IPv4 address on April 14, 2012. (Concidence that the Mayan calendar also ends in 2012? That’s for you to decide!)
For over a decade, we in North America and Europe have avoided running out of IPv4 addresses. Alternative network technologies, such as network address translation (NAT) and Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) have made it possible to squeeze more devices within the IPv4 address range. NAT solutions, used in most business and home gateways, let us use dozens to thousands of PCs within a local area network while requiring a minimal number of Internet addresses.
But even with these methods, North America and Europe are running out of IPv4 addresses. IPv6, with its 128-bit address space, has orders of magnitude more addresses. It may be possible to run out of IPv6 addresses, but we’ll probably have to have interstellar colonies before that becomes a concern.
IPv6 is already very popular in India, China, and South Korea, and is supported by all the major operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. It also has hardware support from such all the major network switch and router vendors as Cisco, Juniper Networks, and Foundry Networks.
So why aren’t we using it in the U.S., Canada, and Europe?
Partly it’s because Americans and Europeans have had the lion’s share of IPv4 addresses assigned to them. In countries like Korea, where the country is, according to the Korean Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, “the most advanced country in the world in terms of broadband Internet network connections,” there simply weren’t enough IPv4 addresses (23.6 million) to go around, so Korea quickly adopted IPv6.
Another problem is that IPv6 rules forbid multiple Internet connections. In practice, this means that companies can’t obtain service-provider independent addresses. If you have an IPv6 address from one backbone provider and they were knocked off-line, you couldn’t, as you can with IPv4, simply fall-back to your backup backbone provider.
The real reason, though is that, frankly, we’ve been lazy and cheap. We’ve managed to avoid upgrading our legacy Internet systems for years. It’s not as though there are some killer IPv6 applications. While IPv6 does make Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and peer-to-peer (P2P) networking easier, we’ve all been happy to get the same functionality from applications running on the IPv4 network stack. The bottom line has been, “It’s not broke, why fix it?”
Alas for us, it’s about to break. We can no longer afford to be either lazy or cheap. Like it or not, it’s time to upgrade your network infrastructure to IPv6 or you’ll face the daunting prospect of paying premium prices for an IPv4 address.
How would this work? We don’t know. We have some theories, but that’s about it. There’s no IANA or RIR method for handling this situation. When you get right down to it, we aren’t completely certain how all our current applications and servers will run on an IPv6 Internet.
With less than two years before we face this situation, it’s time to start running IPv6 pilot programs and seeing exactly what this new era of the Internet is going to mean for our businesses. If we don’t, we’ll find out the hard way: By running out of resources when we need them the most or by switching to IPv6 only to find that our services crash under it.
Related Information From Dell.com: Intelligent Infrastructure: The IT You Already Own — But Smarter