Most web workers have probably heard that “the Internet is running out of addresses.” In response, The Internet Society, together with such major players as Facebook, has announced World IPv6 Day. What will this mean for web workers, businesses and individuals?
A website address like gigaom.com is actually an easy-to-remember alias or nickname for a numeric address like 188.8.131.52. (GigaOM actually has several, to deal with the traffic that the website receives.) These addresses can be in the range 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255. Because some of the possible numbers are reserved, there are theoretically somewhat over 4 billion internet addresses available under this system, which is known as IPv4.
Unfortunately, it’s been known for some time that we’re running out of IPv4 addresses. By some measures, only 2 percent of the available addresses remain, and they will be exhausted in mid-February, in just over a month.
So the internet will need to move to IPv6 addresses, which will give us a bunch more possibilities: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 of them, in fact. There’s some great information available if you want details.
A lot of the infrastructure of the internet will need to be updated in order to support IPv6, but very little of it has yet been deployed. It won’t be possible to make the transition to “native IPv6″ in the time available. Therefore, a number of short-term fixes are in the works, but the FCC, in a recent paper [PDF], calls them “kludges.”
The short term solutions are necessary because there is not enough time to completely migrate the entire public Internet to “native IPv6″ where end users can communicate entirely via IPv6….These kludges include more efficient use of the IPv4 address resource, conservation, and the sharing of IPv4 addresses through the use of Network Address Translation (NAT). While these provide partial mitigation for IPv4 exhaustion, they are not a long-term solution, increase network costs, and merely postpone some of the consequences of address exhaustion without solving the underlying problem.
Most users won’t see any immediate effects when the IPv4 addresses run out. But large site operators, like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, will be affected, so they have agreed to test their readiness for IPv6, or at least the short-term solutions being worked on today, on June 8. In the long term, major infrastructure upgrades will be needed. As the FCC paper says:
[T]he short-term solutions are problematic. The “solution to the solution” is to complete the transition to a native IPv6 network. A native IPv6 network will restore end-to-end connectivity with a vastly expanded address space, will improve network performance, and should decrease costs. Completing the transition of the public Internet to IPv6 will take time.
As for the rest of us, we probably won’t need to do anything in the near future. It will be up to our internet service providers to make the necessary changes to their systems. A few people may need to reconfigure routers and VPNs, and web hosts will need to add some new DNS records.
If you’re interested, you can test your connection here. But don’t worry if you get results like this one.
It just means that your ISP hasn’t assigned you an IPv6 address yet, which will be true for almost everyone.
By the way, Google and Facebook will still be available via the current IPv4 system on and after June 8. So don’t panic. You’ll probably hear from your ISP in coming months, but it’s unlikely that you’ll lose service.
How are you and your colleagues preparing for IPv6?
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