It’s getting a bit crowded online. Thanks to mobile phones, tablets and other devices, our internet access is getting easier, more mobile and how we get there is more varied than ever before. Online is where it’s at; so much so that even primary school children have their own blogs and babies have twitter accounts. And that’s not to mention the multitude of industrial & medical devices that are being networked. So in a bid to generate more space for more internet users and their devices, a new system has launched. It’s called IPv6, and it’s hoped it will mean a whole host of people – and their multiple internet gadgets – will be able to get online.
So just what is IPv6, and why’s it needed? First up, it’s short for Internet Protocol version 6, and it’s the internet’s new addressing protocol, providing address space for all of our current and predicted online gadgets. Enabled in June 2012, it’s bulking up the existing IPv4 – or Internet Protocol version 4 which can only accommodate about 4.3 billion devices. Why is it needed? Simple: the number of online devices is growing exponentially. Networking giant Cisco reckons that four years from now, in 2016, some 18.9 billion internet-enabled devices will be online which means they’ll outnumber people three to one. Fortunately, thanks to its 128-bit system, that statistic will pose no problem for IPv6, which, it’s predicted, will give enough IP addresses for every person alive to each have over a trillion internet devices.
The release has got the networking community excited and internet giants like Google, Facebook & Bing are amongst the big names who are leading the way in redefining the internet by switching on IPv6 permanently on their websites. They’ve enabled the new system in a bid to grow usage and roll it out as standard. At some point in the future, IPv6 will replace IPv4, the current IP system, but for the time being, both will work alongside each other.
But, aside from generating a massive number of new IP addresses, what will the impact be of IPv6? Well, some suggest that while both systems are in use, the answer is not much. There may be some speed issues for IPv4-only devices but most users shouldn’t notice a difference. The problems, however, may be bigger when once the switch over to IPv6 is complete. That’s because the IPv4 and IPv6 use different addressing techniques and although the former may point to the same website or device as an IPv6 address, it cannot be translated into it. And some believe that the move to IPv6 will take years to complete, with many companies and businesses not wanting to spend the money to do so.
Thankfully there are some who are embracing the change and are already well prepared for IPv6. Like web hosting company Memset’s whose routers, web servers and applications servers are all upgraded to support the new system. And they’re in good company because the UK government is supporting the creation of 6UK, a not-for-profit organisation which will work to ease the move to the new system.
About the Author: Ben Jones is a tech writer, particularly interested in how technology can help streamline business processes.