The internet is one of the most amazing inventions of human history.
It connects billions of people and devices across the world, enabling communication, collaboration, innovation, and entertainment. However, the internet as we know it today is facing a serious challenge: the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses.
IPv4 is Still King
IPv4 is the current version of internet protocol that assigns a unique identifier to every device on the network. However, IPv4 can only support about 4.3 billion addresses, which is not enough to accommodate the growing number of internet users and devices. To solve this problem, a new version of internet protocol was developed: IPv6.
Next Gen Protocol
It offers several benefits over IPv4, such as:
A much larger address space: IPv6 can support 2^128 addresses, which is equivalent to 340 undecillion (or 340 billion billion billion billion) addresses. This means that every person on earth could have trillions of devices connected to the internet without running out of addresses.
Improved performance and security: IPv6 simplifies the packet header structure and supports features such as jumbograms, extension headers, and end-to-end encryption. These features enhance the efficiency, reliability, and security of data transmission over the network.
Enhanced scalability and interoperability: IPv6 enables seamless integration of various types of devices and applications, such as IoT, cloud computing, mobile networks, and data center fabrics. IPv6 also supports auto-configuration and neighbor discovery mechanisms that facilitate network management and deployment.
Despite these advantages, IPv6 adoption has been slow and uneven across the world. According to Google statistics1, only about 35% of global users access Google services over IPv6 as of September 2021. Some of the challenges that hinder IPv6 adoption are:
Technical complexity: IPv6 introduces new concepts and protocols that require network operators, service providers, content providers, and end users to upgrade their hardware, software, and skills. Moreover, IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4, which means that both versions have to coexist and interoperate through various transition mechanisms, such as dual-stack, tunneling, and translation.
Organizational inertia: IPv6 adoption requires a significant investment in terms of time, money, and resources. Many organizations may not see the immediate benefits or incentives to migrate to IPv6, especially if they have already implemented workarounds to cope with IPv4 address scarcity, such as NAT and CIDR. Furthermore, some organizations may face regulatory or policy barriers that prevent them from adopting IPv6.
Awareness and Education
Many people are still unaware of the benefits and challenges of IPv6 or how to use it effectively. There is a need for more education and training programs to raise awareness and build capacity among network professionals, developers, educators, students, and consumers.
However, these challenges are not insurmountable. There are many examples of successful IPv6 deployments and best practices from various sectors and regions2. For instance:
Network Operator 1 in Europe has achieved over 90% IPv6 penetration among its fixed broadband customersusing DHCPv6-PD to assign prefixes to residential gateways3.
Mobile Operator 1 in North America has deployed an IPv6-only network for its LTE subscribersusing 464XLAT to provide access to legacy IPv4 services4.
Content Provider 1 Worldwide has migrated its data center infrastructure to an IPv6-only networkusing load balancers to support IPv4 clients.
Enterprise 1 Worldwide has implemented an IPv6-only single stack network for its internal devicesusing DNS64/NAT64 to connect to external IPv4 resources.
Utility Company 1 in North America has deployed an IPv6-based field area network for its electric distribution network and smart meteringusing 6LoWPAN and RPL protocols.
These use cases demonstrate that IPv6 adoption is not only feasible but also beneficial for various stakeholders. By embracing IPv6, organizations can improve their network performance, security, scalability, and interoperability. They can also future-proof their network infrastructure and services for the emerging technologies and applications that will shape the internet in the coming years.
The Future of the Internet is IPv6
The sooner we adopt it, the better we can enjoy its benefits and opportunities. Let’s join the global movement to make every day World IPv6 Day!