By Paul Hirsch, Senior Network Engineer
Admit it: you forgot about IPv6 Launch Day on June 6th (6/6). It’s OK. To the non-geek “Internet Protocol Version 6” is a name that elicits all the excitement of terms like “Annual Percentage Rate” or “Root Mean Square”. If you are involved with your organization’s Internet presence or business networks, it is important to be aware of IPv6 and plan ahead. (Even if you decide not to celebrate 6/6… ever.)
If you have heard the term “IP address” you may already know that each device that connects to the Internet, (laptop, server, phone, IP connected refrigerator, etc), has a 4 part dotted number called an “IP” that is similar to the state, city, street, and house address of the device. “10.11.12.13” and “18.104.22.168” are examples of IP addresses. Specifically, IP version 4 (IPv4) addresses. With over 4 billion possible IPv4 addresses this seemed roomy when it was designed in the late ’70s.
Now (2015) with over 7 billion humans on planet Earth, IPv4 doesn’t seem so roomy. Many people participating in managing and improving the Internet saw this problem coming a long time ago. By the late ’90s a new version of Internet Protocol, IPv6, was ready. (Don’t ask about 5.) Despite lots of stop gap measures to deal with inadequate space, (like “Network Address Translation” a.k.a. “NAT” that lets lots of systems hide behind one IP to reach out to the Internet), the long term fix is clearly IPv6.
IPv6 has many enhancements, but the most important was a change from an address space supporting 4 billion addresses to one supporting over 340 trillion-trillion-trillion addresses. (3.4 x 10^38 for those of you math lovers out there, three with 38 zeros after it for those math haters out there.) That means we are unlikely to need another upgrade for more address space, until we make contact with advanced alien civilizations….
So why should you care?
- Since 2011, IPv6 use has been doubling each year.
- Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, etc, etc are already on the IPv6 Internet.
- IPv4 will become less reliable as providers implement ever more complicated workarounds to deal with its limited space.
- It is easier and cheaper to enable IPv6 as you are updating a server, network, or service instead of retrofitting it later.
- You can use both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time.
Internet facing services (web sites, email gateways, and web applications) should be IPv6 enabled now to ensure the best connectivity for users going forward. In addition, brand new networks should be deployed with IPv6. If you start planning now and implement it as part of major changes, you will avoid headaches down the road. To get started you will need IPv6 address space from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Go here http://www.test-ipv6.com/ to find out if you are already on the IPv6 Internet. In addition, the IPv6 Launch Day (http://www.worldipv6launch.org/) site has lots of good IPv6 information and links.
Want help with IPv6 planning or implementation? Contact Citon for more information.