4,294,967,296. Just thought I’d start this post with a fairly big number. That number is more elegantly written 232. The more geeky among you also know that 232represents the total number of addresses in the IPv4 address space. When the ARPAnet (precursor to the Internet) configuration was worked out in the 1970s it was an experiment, and for the purposes of experimentation 4.3 billion addresses seemed like more than enough. According to Vint Cerf, the ‘Father’ of the Internet the difficulty resulted from the fact that ‘the experiment never ended’.
Now we find ourselves in 2011 and the last of the IPv4 addresses were distributed to the regional registries by the IANA back in February. At that point predictions allowed for less than a year until the supply to the carriers ran out. Then anyone needing IP connectivity to the Internet will be employing translation technologies from IPv4 to IPv6 or switching to IPv6.
Why does this matter to you? Well, first of all, if you are a consumer with no responsibility for managing a network of computers connected to the Internet then you can most likely relax and ignore it. Oh, by ‘network of computers’ I don’t mean your home network that runs through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as your cable company or DSL provider. In that case the IPv4 depletion is their issue, not yours. J
Next, if you do run a network of computers connected to the Internet but you already have all of the Internet IP addresses you will EVER need, then you can also ignore the issue, albeit only temporarily.
For the rest of us we have a looming situation. I’m not defining it as a problem because it’s not. In the great scheme of technology this necessary step has the potential to make the communications and connectivity faster and more secure. So, what do you need to do?
2) Get your budgets ready. Although Microsoft has built IPv6 capability into Windows the transition is not a ‘software only’ change. It’s likely you will be replacing some physical pieces of your network infrastructure.
3) Put together a team and make transition plans. Once your people are educated and the hardware issues are worked out then set a date to start supporting IPv6. Keep in mind there will be a period of time (years) when both IPv4 and IPv6 will be running on the Internet.
4) Do it! All the plans in the world are useless without action.
A couple of final notes. The move to IPv6 is not destructive, it is constructive. We are building on the success of the Internet and allowing for growth. In case you are wondering the IPv6 address space is 2128. In raw numbers 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. That should hold us for a while. Finally don’t panic. This transition can be smoother than you might think.