Since IPv4 addresses have slowly but surely begun to run out, the Internet Society has arranged a day to test out the future, or IPv6 at least: June 8, 2011. With the air of someone foretelling the apocalypse, IPv6 advocates strongly urge users and to join the revolution and leave IPv4 behind. On the brink of its fortieth birthday, IPv4 is about to max out on the number of unique connections and devices it can safely track. Many companies have jumped on board World IPv6 Day in order to test and demonstrate the decreased hassle of adopting the newest IP version. Major organizations such as Cisco, Bing, Rackspace, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Juniper Networks have signed on to participate in the worldwide test, offering their content over IPv6 for 24 hours (although some companies already offer such access, 24/7).
But big name supporters don’t have everyone convinced that this is the beginning of the IPv6 revolution. As the VP of IP engineering at NTT America, Dorian Kim, told Carolyn Marsan, the Internet “will be even more heavily NATed than it currently is, but life will mostly go on.” On the contrary, chairman of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Russ Housley fears a “very fragile Internet” will result if increased network address translation, as necessitated with IPv4, becomes the case.
A Short History of IPv6
Created by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1998, IPv6’s primary purpose is to expand the Internet’s address space while adding autoconfiguration, network renumbering, and security through the IPsec protocol. The push for IPv6 adoption has included support from Google, Verizon, Comcast, and especially the U.S. government with its 2008 mandate that all agency networks to demonstrate the capability to carry IPv6 traffic. In July 2010, the Federal Acquisition Regulation changed, requiring government agencies to purchase only IPv6-capable systems.
Whether or not the public is ready, IPv4 addresses will almost certainly run out in the next few years (In fact, Asia’s registry, APNIC, has already depleted its normal reserves). Perhaps that’s what the Mayans meant with their 2012 warnings?
Beating Around the IPv6
If you’re struggling with the question of whether or not to deploy IPv6, there are several options to make transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 easier, such as dual stacking, or running both protocols simultaneously in your network. Network address translation allows the sharing of one public IPv4 address across several users. But users are urged to not stop there. Tools such as OpenDNS’s IPv6 Sandbox allow networking professionals to get their feet wet, starting a full month before World IPv6 Day.
To check if your devices are ready for World IPv6 Day, visit http://test-ipv6.com/ before June 8, and for troubleshooting info, visit the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). Be sure to check with your devices’ manufacturers about upgrading operating systems, browsers, and router software to ensure you are ready to test out IPv6.
What’s keeping you from taking the plunge? Let us know in the comments section or send me an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.