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How does it affect you?
The FAQ below is intended to provide a very high level overview of some of the issues affecting IPv4 and IPv6.
If you need specific technical information on how to migrate your business to IPv6 or the impact of the withdrawal of IPv4, please feel free to contact us on 0845 450 4944 or at sales@L3n.co.uk
Q: What is IPv6?
A: IPv6 is short for Internet Protocol version 6. Use of the Internet Protocol (IP) is one of the fundamental ways devices connect across the internet (or almost any data communications network come to that). Currently all devices that connect to a network will be assigned a unique IPv4 address. The IP software (or IP stack) is built into to all operating systems nowadays and it's one of the fundamental operations that go on behind the scenes when you click a web page, for example.
Q: So what happened to IPv5?
A: In the late 1970's, a protocol named ST - http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1819.html The Internet Stream Protocol - was created for the experimental transmission of voice, video, and distributed simulation. This was revised to become ST2 and started to get implemented into commercial projects by groups like IBM, NeXT, Apple and Sun. ST and ST+ offered connections, instead of its connection-less IPv4 counterpart. It also guaranteed QoS. ST and ST+ become known as IPv5.
Q: Why do we need IPv6?
A: IPv6 is a an enhancement to IPv4 and has been designed to include many features that are not available in native IPv4. Things like enhanced security and better support for Quality of Service. It also allows other (routing) protocols to be used more effectively and generally make the Internet more efficient. To a certain extent, the shortcomings of IPv4 have been overcome during the last 30 years since it's creation, by the development of "bolt-on" protocols, tweaks and enhancements. This has extended the life of IPv4 and has allowed us to use IPv4 longer and more effectively than anyone could have imagined when the protocol was first developed. However the real driver behind the roll out of IPv6 is that the world is starting to run out of IPv4 addresses. When it was conceived in the late 1960's the IPv4 address range was designed to provide 4,294,967,296 (232) unique addresses. At the time it was believed that this amount would be sufficient. Due to the way IPv6 is structured it allows us to have an almost infinite number of IP addresses (2128) or if you prefer long hand:
2128 = 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456
Which equates to: 340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 938 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456
So even if every person on the planet had several hundred internet devices we still wouldn't run out of IPv6 addresses
Q: So when will we run out of IPv4 addresses?
A: Well, opinions are divided on the matter and it is difficult to state an exact date with any certainty. The mechanism for the distribution of Internet Addresses is multi layered and allows for local regions to apply their own policies for the most effective distribution of blocks of addresses. It does mean, however, that there are small "stockpiles" of Internet addresses registered so getting a global picture of IP address resource is not straightforward.
The "top-level" organisation that distributes IP addresses is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). IANA issues large blocks of IP addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIR):
The RIRs then assign IP addresses to in-country ISPs (for the UK this would be BT, Verizon, Virgin Media etc). The ISPs then use this allocation to provide their services to their customers.
As of September 2011, IANA has run out of allocable IP Address space.
Ripe NCC is allocating the last /8 to the RIRs at the current time (Feb 2013). It is not known how long after the last IPv4 address has been issued by the RIR, the ISPs will be able to continue issuing IPv4 addresses.
Some RIRs will run out of addresses before others, and some ISPs will assign all their allocations more quickly than others, so it is not possible to give a definitive date for the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. For Europe, RIPE NCC has some excellent information at: http://www.ripe.net/v4exhaustion/
Q: What do I need to do?
A: If you are an end-user (i.e. running a single computer that connects to the internet), the answer is very little. All ISPs will continue to support IPv4 for existing users for some years to come, and it is only new connections to the internet that will have to operate using IPv6. However as more and more services (e.g. Google, banks etc.) migrate to IPv6 then the ISPs will need to migrate existing IPv4 users over to IPv6 to maintain their efficiencies of scale. Even today, virtually all computer and server operating systems currently support both IPv4 and IPv6 and your ISP should advise what, if anything, you need to do when the time to migrate comes.
If you are managing your own business network you will in, the short term, need to decide whether to continue running IPv4 internally on your own network and perform an IPv4 to IPv6 translation at your network borders, or whether to switch over to native IPv6 as soon as possible. Be warned that, if choosing the translation route, you will still have to migrate to native IPv6 at some time in the future, as eventually, manufacturers will no longer provide IPv4 support in their operating systems. Although this point will be several years away, deferring the switch-over may have cost and reliability benefits.
If you are an ISP or running a public facing network you have a major task on your hands! IPv6 will affect almost every element of the network including routing protocols, DNS, customer address allocation, Quality of Service etc.. You will need to provide IPv4 and/or IPv6 overlay networks that are either logically or physically separate from the existing infrastructure. You will need to be able to provide connectivity for IPv4 users to IPv6 websites and vice versa, and migrate the users away from IPv4 and onto IPv6 services in a managed cost-effective manner. All seamlessly and all with minimum CAPEX!
More information on IPv4 and IPv6 can be found at:
IPv4 Depletion and IPv6 Deployment: http://www.ripe.net/info/faq/IPv6-deployment.html#v42
IPv4 Address Report: http://www.potaroo.net/tools/ipv4/index.html
Number Resources: http://www.iana.org/numbers/
....or contact us or give us a call - 0845 450 4944