IPv6, a Revolution for Your Network?

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121122 bh 04 truelove brendaThis article originally appeared on the BAMA at Work website, and is reprinted here by permission of the Author, Brenda Truelove.

What do the WWII Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy and IPv6 have in common?

Answer: On June 6, we remember both the launch of the WWII Allied forces D-Day invasion, and the launch of the new 128-bit hexadecimal number protocol, IPV6. The former happened in 1944 on the beaches of Normandy, and the latter in 2012 on networks worldwide. IPv6 is an updated way to assign IP addresses, which are unique numbers for internet-connected devices. These two events, while entirely dissimilar and generations apart, were both necessary to combat a problem that, if not addressed, would lead to world-wide calamity.

Of course, the evil systematic extermination of innocent people in Europe by Adolf Hitler understandably deserves precedence over any technology issues. However, if the world population of an estimated 7 billion people continues on current growth trends, the world’s need for internet connectivity on all of our devices will outpace the current IPv4 pipeline at an alarming rate.

IPv6BaWSo, what would happen if the Internet ran out of IP addresses? It’s already happening according to Vint Cerf, a “Founding Father of the Internet” who has served as vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google since 2005.

He stated that just as telephones utilize a system of unique numbers in order to place calls, internet-enabled devices also use a system of unique numbers to connect to the global online network. The current IP address system, known as IPv4, is problematic in that it only has room for about 4 billion unique addresses. That is not nearly enough for the world’s population, let alone the growing number of devices. Many devices already share IP addresses through the use of routers and proxies. As IPv4 runs out of free addresses, IP address sharing will become increasingly important. That is why a group that cooperatively manages the Internet was needed to agree on a solution and begin its implementation.

That’s exactly what happened June 6, 2012. The group studied the problem and implemented the protocol for IPv6 – which is known as World IPv6 Launch – that marked the start of a coordinated rollout by major websites, Internet services and equipment providers to address the problem. The group determined that in order to keep up with population growth and the world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for device use, more IP addresses are needed. How many more, exactly? A conservative estimate from Google sources is about 340 trillion trillion trillion, written in numerical notation as:

340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Cerf says that’s a number big enough to give everyone on Earth their own list of billions of IP addresses. Hopefully, it’s big enough to last into the foreseeable future.

Most regular Internet users don’t need to do anything to prepare. There’s no need for IPv6 panic, similar to the fears many of us recall surrounding Y2K at the turn of the millennium.

The University of Alabama is offering a one-day seminar for IT professionals who need to “demystify” this latest technological challenge and learn practical tools to assist with their organization’s IPv6 roll-out. Please visit our website  for more information about this course. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn for more info and news about Professional Development, Certificate Programs and how to improve your professional profile.

Article by Brenda H. Truelove, M.A, program manager at Bama At Work. Her training and development training portfolio with the College of Continuing Studies includes the manufacturing and technology sectors with special emphasis on Maintenance and Supply Chain Management for industries and service professionals.

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