Many industry professionals and organizations have been buzzing about the launch of IPv6, but those who are outside of the technical community are left scratching their heads. Businesses use the internet on a daily basis, but not many are aware that there is a major change on the horizon. Since most of the ground work for IPv6 has been conducted behind the scenes, everyday users do not have a concrete understanding of what IPv6 is and how it will impact them.
What is IPv6?
An Internet Protocol address, or IP address, is a number that identifies each sender or receiver of information sent over the internet. IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) is the latest protocol being used to direct internet traffic. The current version, IPv4, has reached exhaustion and the remaining blocks do not have enough IP addresses to support the growing number of internet users. IPv6 is capable of providing 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses, while IPv4 was only able to supply 4 billion IP addresses to internet users. With the expansion of the total amount of IP spaces available, IPv6 is contributing to the continued growth of the internet by allowing many more devices and users on the Internet.
Why Make the Switch?
For many, the transition to IPv6 began last year when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) divided the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses amongst the individual Regional Internet Registries (RIR) in February. Currently, there are no longer any IPv4 addresses in the Asia-Pacific region, and industry observers have predicted that Europe will run out this year, North America will run out next year and Africa and Latin America will run out of IPv4 addresses by 2016.
Most modern operating systems, such as Apple’s Mac OS X, newer versions of Microsoft Windows, and major Linux distributions, have been prepared for the transition to IPv6 for several years. However, users who do not have access to more modern operating systems will be required to install software updates that will allow them to communicate with both versions until IPv4 becomes extinct. But, there will be some hardware out there that will never be able to have any kind of IPv6 connectivity and such legacy equipment will eventually be retired.
By implementing the tools necessary to access IPv6 enabled sites, users will be able to browse the internet without any limitations. Initiating the transition early can ensure that there is no loss in connectivity as IPv6 sites become the primary version in use. The switch from IPv4 to IPv6 is inevitable as more users and devices connect to the internet and exhaust the limited number of IPv4 addresses that remain.
The foremost advantage to IPv6 is increased address space, boasting a 128-bit long IP address. This is a significant gain over the 32-bit length of IPv4 addresses, which allows for a virtually endless amount of unique IP address configurations. As businesses and users throughout the world continue to connect online, IPv6 will provide the space needed to accommodate the growth of the internet.
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