Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors about the Internet running out of IP addresses, the unique numbers that identify every device connected to the Web and are essential to its operation.
They’re true. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority handed out the last unassigned range of numbers on February 3, 2011 at a ceremony in Miami.
There’s no need for panic, but let’s take a look at what this means and how the entities that make the technical rules for the Internet plan to address the shortage.
IPv4 addresses look like this: 184.108.40.206. Obviously, there’s an upper limit (approximately 4.3 billion) to the number of unique addresses available in this format. For the first several decades of the Internet’s existence, the IPv4 system had plenty of room for every computer on the Web. However, the people who implemented IPv4 failed to envision the day when almost any digital device—from smartphones to iPads to home theater receivers to refrigerators—would need one of these unique identifiers. Combine these devices with the millions and millions of desktop, laptops, servers, storage clusters, and printers out there, and 4.3 billion suddenly doesn’t seem so unreachable.
Enter IPv6, the addresses of which consist of eight groups of four hexadecimal digits separated by colons (e.g.,
2001:0db5:86a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7335) and provide enough permutations to identify 3.5x10^36 (3.5 undecillion, or 3.5 followed by 36 zeros) unique terminals—enough for the foreseeable future.
Further complicating matters, the two protocols are not cross-compatible. During the transition period, which is already underway, manufacturers and network engineers are using a “dual-stack” protocol that includes both IPv4 and IPv6 systems.
Fortunately for end-users, much of this translation and transition happens behind the scenes. However, business owners need to be aware that the change is indeed happening, and take that into consideration when making hardware purchases so that they don’t get stuck with equipment that’s prematurely obsolete. For detailed information regarding IPv6 compatibility with specific hardware, contact CMIT Solutions.