June 8 has been recognised as the World IPv6 day. The recognition of the significance of the day, though, is mostly restricted to individuals involved in the running & upkeep of the network & enterprises who depend on the Internet - cloud computing, web hosts, online services & their kind. Basically people working behind the scenes to ensure you experience an uninterrupted & uninterruptible Internet connection.
However, the continued growth & evolution of the Internet depends upon a successful, & desirably smooth, migration & adoption of the IPv6 standard. With each passing day, the footprint of our online activities & number of devices we use to go online are only increasing. The use [&, often, abuse] of the internet is steadily creeping into increasing aspects of our lives & our dependence on the Internet to get work done too is on a steady ascent. Thus, knowing about IPv6 [Internet Protocol version 6], even if a little bit, is
critical for the continuation of our way of life useful.
A simple, easy-to-understand explanation of the IPv6 & its use has been illustrated in this infographic.
Click on the image to view a larger-sized image
An infographic explaining the need to migrate to IPv6
Click on the image to view a larger-sized image
IPv4 is being succeeded by IPv6...err, poor counting skills? what-evah happened to the IPv5?
Currently following the IPv4 standard, it would be logical to assume the one succeeding it would thus be termed IPv5. However, as we now know, it is IPv6 that is all set to take its place. No, it does not have anything to do with IPv5 being numerologically inauspicious or some such other mind-whacking, gobbledygook explanation.
The reason for this is because [not-so] long years ago, when we made a tryst with Internet, we had to formulate effective set of rules [protocols] for communicating with & over the Internet. Thus, as part of specifying such a set of rules, the Internet Stream Protocol was proposed. It was generally identified as ST. A later iteration of the protocol, ST-2 was also identified as Internet Protocol version 5, that shortens to IPv5.
As a result, when time came to name the successor to IPv4, in order to avoid confusion with ST-2 that was an unrelated protocol, the good folks at the Internet Engineering Task Force [IETF] decided to name theirs IPv6.
How is IPv6 important to the end-user [you, me, your neighbor's hawwwtt wife-kind of people] & what if the transition does not take place?
Transition has to take place & will take place. Continuing with IPv4 is not an option, unless growth of the Internet is to be capped - an impossibility, or some way is found to scale it up to match that of IPv6 without hampering its performance. However, no such method is currently available. Questions whose answers, however, are being debated is the manner in which the migration process is to be undertaken.
image via: IPv6 with Henry Yu
Yet for the sake of argument, let us consider a hypothetical scenario where no such transition is to take place & people are to continue with the IPv4 standard currently in effect. As indicated in the infographic above, any 2 internet-enabled devices, in order to be able to communicate with one another, must have an IP address assigned to it, for identification, during that session of communication.
With the number of possible IP addresses that can be generated under IPv4 reaching its limits, a situation would arise in the not so distant future when a device that wishes to connect to the Internet finds that its ISP does not have any IP address left to allocate to it [dynamically assigned IP addresses, a practise itself borne out of the need to make effective use of IP addresses & avoid surplus capacity]. Thus with no IP address available, the device would therefore be unable to log on to the Internet - BUMMER!! Workarounds deployed even now to prolong use of IPv4 are known to render number of Internet services unusable.
4,29,49,67,296 [~4.3 billion] IP addresses can be generated (232) following in the IPv4 standard & they have been estimated to be used up by within a year from now.
IPv6, on the other hand, can generate 3,40,28,23,66,92,09,38,46,33,74,60,74,31,76,82,11,456 unique IP addresses 2128 [~340 trillion trillion trillion or 340 Undecillion - a number so large, even Microsoft can't comprehend it - Live Writer marks Undecillion as a typo] - enough for handling the estimated increase in Internet usage.
Related: IPv4 address exhaustion
Cool. So lets all jump into the IPv6 bandwagon then. What's the problem?
The simplest & the most important reason - *cost*. Enterprises migrating to the IPv6 standard would have to undertake acquisition & setting up a whole new set of software platform & network hardware infrastructure, including DNS servers, capable of handling Internet traffic through IPv6. The cost of such an undertaking would quite easily run upwards of multi-millions of American dollars [not Zimbabwean], depending on the scale of operation. Say an enterprise does setup its IPv6 infrastructure and is all ready to connect to the internet an go about its business as before. But can it? Barely. This is because while it itself migrated to IPv6, other networks with which it had been communicating have not yet done so, possibly owing to the costs incurred. An IPv6-based network can only communicate with other IPv6-based networks. It has not been designed to communicate with an IPv4 network.
In order to overcome this "oversight", new instruction-sets have been devised to get them to talk to each other. However using such an interface increases latency, besides degrading the performance. Thus in order to ensure optimal performance while communicating with an IPv4 network, the enterprise that had migrated to IPv6 may just decide to retain its earlier IPv4 infrastructure & operate it alongside when the need arises - thereby essentially doubling cost of operation - now why would anybody want to be an early adopter?
Errr...okay then, but how do I know if my ISP is an early adopter and supports IPv6?
If you can open Google's IPv6 site, you are good to go: http://ipv6.google.com/
India, meanwhile has set itself a target of March 2012 for a full roll-out of IPv6.
The National internet Exchange of India [NIXI] is setting up the required infrastructure & conducting training to enable & help adoption of the IPv6 standard - details.
On a related note, check out this inforgraphic prepared by Cisco titled, "The Internet of Things"
A data from the infographic,
By the end of 2011, 20 typical [American] households will generate more Internet traffic than the entire Internet in 2008
I've added the words inside the parentheses.