By Yanick Pouffary
After many years of growth and innovation, the Internet has outgrown its foundation, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). While IPv4 has successfully fueled the Internet for more than 30 years, IPv4 addresses were distributed unevenly, with the majority going to the western world. As a result, we are at an inflection point in the evolution of the Internet and it is time to transition to IPv6.
So why is now the time to transition to IPv6?
In February 2011, the last blocks of IPv4 addresses were allocated to the five Internet registries around the world. And in May 2011, the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the Regional Internet Registry for the Asia Pacific region and Australia, ran out of Internet addresses. This region represents over 60% of the world population and the Internet’s growth there is staggering.
It’s also expected that RIPE, the Regional Internet Registry for Europe, Russia and the Middle East will run out of IPv4 addresses in early 2012. That region, which is highly connected, represents another 11% of the world population.
And here in North America, we will probably run out of IPv4 addresses before the end of 2012.
So what does this all mean? Once the final block of IPv4 addresses are assigned and effectively depleted, organizations that want to use the Internet to grow and innovate will be forced to employ complicated mitigation schemes. This will not only hamper their efforts to innovate, but it will make it difficult to ensure persistent, ubiquitous Internet connectivity, or an IP “dial tone.” Unless, that is, they transition to IPv6.
(Check out my interview with LockerGnome’s Brandon Wirth, where I discuss the basics of IPv6 and what’s involved in the transition.)
The evolution to IPv6 and its benefits
As a member of The IPv6 Forum and IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), I’ve participated in a more-than-15-year industry effort to develop IPv6, a new, enhanced Internet protocol. IPv6 was designed specifically to overcome many technical limitations of IPv4 and to address the IPv4 address pool depletion issue.
One of IPv6’s key enhancements is its128-bit address, which gives IPv6 nearly infinite IP address capacity. To put this in perspective, IPv6 has enough IP address capacity to offer every grain of sand on the planet its own IP address. In addition, the IETF used its more than 25 years of experience working with IPv4 to achieve many technical enhancements with IPv6, the details of which I will explore in a future post.
I know I can speak for my colleagues at the IETF and the IPv6 Forum that now is the time to transition to IPv6. Early adopters of IPv6 will be the first to benefit from many advantages, including:
- Innovative, end-to-end applications and services
- More stable and secure networks
- Always-on networks and applications
Transitioning to IPv6 is a journey
The transition to IPv6 is inevitable for any organization planning to thrive on the Internet. But a transition doesn’t have to happen overnight.
For example, in an effort to prod its suppliers toward IPv6 adoption, the U.S. federal government announced a series of IPv6 mandates. The first mandate states that all IT procurements acquire IPv6-ready products only. The U.S. government then mandated that all its external Web sites be IPv6 compatible by 2012. And lastly, it mandated that its entire IT infrastructure be IPv6 compatible by 2014.
Like the government, your organization can also transition to IPv6 using a phased approach. This will allow you to control the pace and cost of your transition.
Choose your route to IPv6
2011 is a watershed year in the history of the Internet. With the transition to IPv6 we are on the brink of a breakthrough in the growth and innovation of the Internet. IPv6 will enable a pervasive and seamless Internet in which devices and machines connect and share information automatically. IPv6 will solidify IP as the cornerstone of electronic commerce, marketing and collaboration, making IP the new “dial tone.”
You can transition to IPv6 either proactively or reactively. Taking a proactive approach allows you to put your organization on the leading edge of the next-generation Internet. This helps you position your organization to take advantage of emerging markets already using IPv6.
Alternately, you can take a more reactive approach to adopting IPv6. If you choose that route, make sure that your network and IT infrastructure is at least as compatible with IPv6 traffic as customer and partner communications require.
Either approach is fine, as every organization is different. The important thing is to understand what IPv6 is and how it will impact your organization.
Have you begun preparing for IPv6? Perhaps you’ve begun your transition. How is it going? Please leave a comment. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Learn more about HP IPv6 Consulting Services.
Yanick Pouffary is HP Distinguished Technologist; HP IPv6 Global Leader; and Chief Architect, HP Enterprise Services Office of the CTO.
HP recently held an expert chat focused on IPv6 networking, and how companies can minimize the risks, costs, and complexities of transitioning to IPv6. Learn how HP can help you meet the challenges of today’s dual-protocol world and how to develop a plan for phased deployment that meets your specific needs. Register now.