IPv6: Do or die
Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the key to a bigger, better Internet, and will form the backbone of the world's next-generation broadband networks.
So says Johannesburg-based broadband company, BWired.
At present, the Internet has some 4.3 billion IP addresses, which was thought to be more than enough when the current IPv4 addressing scheme was created in 1977, according to BWired.
But with the Internet becoming all-pervasive, it is likely that practically everything will be connected to the Internet within the next few years. As a result, 4.3 billion unique addresses do not seem like such a large number, the company says.
With the launch of IPv6, the number of unique Web addresses can now grow to 340 trillion, trillion, trillion. Industry data suggests the current IPv4 addresses are rapidly being exhausted.
RIPE, the European Internet registry, is down to its final block (16 million) of IPv4 addresses, and ARIN, the regional Internet registry for the Americas, has only three blocks remaining.
Willie Olivier, CTO at BWired, says IPv6 has major implications for practically everyone: government, business, Internet service providers (ISP) and consumers.
Without new addresses, billions of people will never be able to use new-generation Internet services - and businesses should start gearing up for IPv6 sooner rather than later, he warns.
"Making the transition to IPv6 compatibility is not something with a direct financial gain right now, but the long-term overall cost in not deploying IPv6 now will be substantial for companies looking to grow," says Olivier.
"The costs will not just be in workarounds or buying more networking gear. Businesses that do not start moving across to IPv6 now will risk accessibility problems with their Web sites and services when more customers and network providers start using IPv6."
As IPv6 deployment progresses, those ISPs that have not invested in adopting IPv6 in their networks may find attracting new customers difficult, and may begin to lose existing customers who wish to proceed with their own IPv6 deployments, believes Olivier.
BWired is currently rolling out one of the first IPv6 networks in SA, on the back of a 1 000km ring of fibre around greater Johannesburg that will ultimately connect all local government offices and supply wholesale connectivity to local service providers.
Major network operators, Web sites and hardware vendors are starting to ready themselves for the new network, including IPv6 connectivity as part of their default product settings, says Olivier.
The costs for local businesses will be minimal, with "normal" infrastructure upgrades more than capable of providing the necessary conversion. For more than 90% of Web sites, no change would be needed, he says.
At present, the "dual stack" approach, where both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols are run, is the most effective approach. "You can run IPv4 and IPv6 side-by-side during the interim stage of migration, and can then gradually start phasing out IPv4," says Olivier.