The Journey to IPv6

Many of our customers will be aware that there are two sets if IP addressing conventions.  We thought it would be interesting to look at the history of this.


Lets jump back to 1983, the Internet was conceived and the first set of addresses were allocated. There are around 4.2 billion valid IPv4 addresses; in 1985 there were about 4.8 billion people in the world. You can see how they thought this would be sufficient, even 10 years later the internet only had 16 million users, 0.4% of the world population. From around 1992 there was substantial global uptake as developing countries gained access to the internet. Due to that, there was recognition of the acute problem of IP exhaustion. This led to the development of a protocol that could succeed and supplement IPv4 and so, in 1998, a basic version of the IPv6 protocol was published.


Skip forward 6 years to 2005 and the first billion users of the internet was reached. 5 years later and there are now more devices than users so you can really see the belt being strained now. In 2011, there was only 12% of IPv4 available.  2015 ended with around 8 billion connected devices, which is around 4 devices per household. By 2020, it is estimated to have 21 billion connected devices. So how does IPv6 help? Well, it addresses the problem of IP exhaustion. Changing from a 32-bit to 128-bit system allows for around 340 trillion trillion trillion combinations. To put that in context, if IPv4 was the earth, then IPv6 is our solar system.


Will we be able to notice a difference between IPv4 and IPv6?

The only obvious difference you will be able to notice is how it appears: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334 as you can see it much longer and incorporates letters. There is also some technical improvements in the areas of extensibility, autoconfiguration, and mobility.  


So why have we not seen mass adoption?

There are multiple reasons, one of them being cost. There are millions of routers and switches that have designed to work with IPv4. Replacing all those devices is a timely and costly project.


Another reason is the development of NAT (Network Address Translation). Even though IPv6 had been developed, NAT effectively increased the lifetime of IPv4 addresses.


A third reason is because of no backwards compatibility. There was the great foresight to see IPs running out but making IPv6 compatible with IPv4 wasn’t in that vision. Due to this, there is no standardised way to transition from devices that still run IPv4.


Finally, there is no true benefit of being an early adopter of IPv6 yet. Because there is no compatibility between IPv4 and IPv6, they will run together for the foreseeable future. Adopters only start benefiting when other have moved to IPv6 which creates a ‘we’ll move when they move’ mentality.    


Why you should transition to IPv6

It’s inevitable. Modern devices are being made to use IPv6 and after IPv4 addresses run out they will be the only ones left.

IPv6 can remove a lot of the conflict issues that are common with IPv4 addresses. It also allows for more efficient connections and communications between devices. This can make websites load up to 10 to 15 times faster between IPv6 connections.  

In addition to its efficiency, IPv6 will check packet integrity and encrypt traffic, which will improve security. This means standard internet traffic will have a VPN-style protection.

Lastly, due to the abundance of their availability, IPv6 addresses cost virtually nothing.

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