The connected world is rapidly running out of assignable IPv4 addresses. According to a calculator by APNIC (the regional Internet registry for Asia and the Pacific) blogger Geoff Huston, most geographical areas have exhausted their IPv4 address pool. The African Internet community, whose addresses are managed by Regional Internet Registry Afrinic, is slated to run out of IPv4 space in mid-2018. Efforts such as reclaiming unused address space and encouraging Network Address Translation (NAT) for private networks were effective for a time. Clearly, however, these efforts could not hold off the inevitable indefinitely. Thus, the IPv6 protocol was conceptionalised and brought in to ultimately replace IPv4.

Why do we need so many more IP addresses?

Multiple users, even more multiple devicesConsider this – since the adoption of broadband as a connectivity standard, Internet connections remain mostly active all the time. While active, these connections continuously use a single IP address. Now add to this the fact that the typical end user has multiple devices with an Internet connection. In a modern office setting, an individual likely makes use of a mobile device, a tablet and a personal computer. Thus, each person requires at least two to three IP addresses. Furthermore, advances in technology and manufacturing bring such devices well within the reach of many more individuals, causing a multiplier effect.

In addition, mobile-to-mobile and mobile-to-machine interactions are increasing. This leads to a large increase in the number of non-connectivity devices that now require their own IP address. Think of remote monitoring and point-of-sale systems as examples. With the rise of the Internet of Things upon us, the need for a much larger number of available IP addresses becomes paramount.

How IPv6 addresses our needs

In a nutshell, the IPv4 protocol allows for approximately 4.3 billion IP addresses. In comparison, IPv6 allows for approximately 3.4 x 10E38 addresses. That’s 3,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible addresses. This means that individuals have more IP addresses at their disposal, for many more connected devices. Furthermore, NAT will no longer be absolutely necessary.

Not only does IPv6 offer many orders of magnitude of more addresses than the protocol it replaces, it has other advantages as well. It was designed from the ground up with security in mind. It also offers better ways to route traffic across the Internet.

On the road to IPv6 compliance

Planning ahead will help IPv6 implementationWhile there is no hard and fast path to IPv6 onboarding, a certain amount of planning goes a long way into achieving success in its implementation.

A good starting point is to run IPv4 and IPv6 side by side at the same time. This will facilitate the learning process and allow for easier adaptation of future IPv6 connections. Businesses will also need to focus more on using DNS names instead of IPs.

For service providers, the key is to make their outwards-facing environments compatible with IPv6. To speed this process up, consumers can make direct requests for providers to put this into place. Additionally, providers should take the time to ensure their staff receive the relevant skills, and are capable of  offering assistance where needed.

Thankfully, operating system developers have had ample time to build IPv6 into their products. Most recent end user devices are already IPv6 capable.

Adept is IPv6-ready and has a number of IPv6 clients on board already!