How IPv6 is similar to climate change…
IPv6 has been in the works since 1998 to address the shortfall of available IP addresses under the previous scheme (IPv4). More than two decades later, IPv6 adoption rates are still low. In this article, we investigate the importance of making the switch and how, in doing so, we can secure the future of the internet.
What is IPv6?
To enable internet communication, every connected device is identified through its own IP address. IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol which identifies the location of devices across the internet, via street addresses/ postcodes.
IPv4, the older version, supports around 4.3 billion devices– which at the time of development, was thought to be enough. However, the unprecedented growth of the internet, along with countless connected devices we possess today (on average more than 9 connected devices per household in the UK) has created a global demand for more IP addresses. Fortunately, this trend was recognised 20 years ago by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and in 1998 IPv6 was created to support approximately 340 undecillion devices (that’s 340 trillion, trillion, trillion)!
“IPv6, for the greater good!”
Realistically, there are not that many immediate benefits to making the switch, hence why migration levels have been low. So, why switch at all?
Take climate change as an example… We know that our choices and actions now, will directly affect future generations and therefore, have a duty to make appropriate and sustainable choices to minimise such impacts.
One day in the not–so–distant future, the Internet will become unreliable, as the number of devices continue to increase and the number of IPv4 addresses continue to be in short supply. This is where IPv6 comes in, through adopting now – you are reducing the impact on future generations.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any short-term benefits, here are a few:
- More Efficient Routing
IPv6 enables internet service providers to reduce the size of their routing tables and all network fragmentation is handled by the source device, rather than the router.
- Directed Data flows
IPv6 supports multicast, rather than broadcast. This allows intensive packet flows (such as multimedia streams) to be sent to multiple destinations simultaneously, saving networking bandwidth.
- Support for New Services
Through IPv6, true end-to-end connectivity is achieved, allowing new and valuable services. Peer–to–peer networks are easier to create and maintain, and services such as Quality of Service (QoS) and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) become more robust.
What is the deadline?
There is no official switch off date, so if you are still using IPv4 there is no need to panic, your Internet access will not suddenly cease. Whilst IPv4 addresses can be reused, they are being resold at extortionate rates and are not a long-term solution.
Without IPv6, user experience would eventually be impacted, systems would stall, and devices would have a difficult time communicating with each other, impacting services like internet speed, VoIP and web conferences. The migration to IPv6 is necessary and inevitable.
However, a significant problem is that the two IP address formats are not compatible. So, until we live in an IPv6-only world, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) need to provide their customers with Internet connectivity, regardless of whether the connection is IPv4 or IPv6.
This is where dual stack comes in. The dual stack solution means every networking device, server, switch, router and firewall in an ISP’s network is configured with both IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity capabilities. Crucially, dual stack technology allows ISPs to process both IPv4 and IPv6 data traffic simultaneously.
As more networks transition, more content sites support IPv6 and more end users upgrade their equipment for IPv6 capabilities, the world is slowly, but surely moving away from IPv4.
How do I make the switch?
The good news is, we can help. Every device we offer is dual stacked and our 24/7 support service means we can get you switched over whilst avoiding any business downtime. Speak to one of our IT experts at razorblue to discuss how you can make the switch.