New version of the Internet switched onNetwork operators and websites switch on IPv6 infrastructure todayThousands of websites – including Google’s, Facebook’s and Yahoo!’s – and 65 network operators today are switching on systems that use a new addressing system for Internet-connected devices.
The new addressing system, called IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), is different from the addressing system used since the Internet’s launch (IPv4) in that it has more addresses – almost infinitely more. IPv6 was created in 1996, but had not been widely adopted, and today, the World IPv6 Day, was designated to make a major leap forward in the transition, as the number of possible IPv4 addresses is quickly approaching zero.
Vint Cerf, a computer scientist who is credited with being one of the original creators of the Internet, said in a video by Google that the Internet was designed in 1973 and launched in 1983. Today, Cerf is a chief Internet evangelist at Google.
“In that timeframe, we thought it was an experiment,” Cerf said. “So we allocated address space – certainly like telephone numbers – sufficient to define 4.3bn termination points on the Internet.”
In 1983, he remembers, it seemed like this amount would last forever. “The thing is, the experiment never ended,” Cerf said. “We are now absolutely compelled to implement the new one so we can continue to grow the network.”
IPv6 is a different format for Internet packets, providing 128 bits of address space instead of 32 bits comprising an IPv4 address. This is the difference that expands the number of possible addresses to 3.4 x 10³⁸, or 340 trillion-trillion-trillion addresses.
Not all network providers have been lagging behind in implementing IPv6-compatible technology. One of the companies at the forefront of the IPv6 movement has been Silicon Valley-based network and datacenter space provider Hurricane Electric (HE).
HE claims to have the world’s largest IPv6-enabled network, offering business-class and commercial IPv6 services. The company is offering both IPv4 and IPv6 at all of its locations around the world, including its colocation datacenters in the Silicon Valley.
Owen DeLong, IPv6 evangelist at HE, said nothing would change for the company on the World IPv6 Day. The company has been supportive of the movement to help “other people in the industry get to where we’ve been for years,” he said.
“We span three continents,” DeLong said about HE’s IPv6 network. “To our knowledge, no other IPv6 network has that. We have more IPv6-enabled nodes and we’re one of the very few networks that have 100% IPv6 availability everywhere.”
He said it did not take much for companies to adapt their infrastructure to support IPv6, unless they have “really old infrastructure.”
The industry that needs to react quickly is the mobile-phone industry, DeLong said. “Most mobile handsets don’t support IPv6,” he said, and those that do, such as Apple’s iPhone, only support it on Wi-Fi networks.
But, “you’ll see a lot of IPv6 capable handsets come onto the market in the next few months,” he said.
For the transition to happen faster, it is the content providers that need to move first with IPv6, DeLong said. Even though there is not a lot of users today for content transmitted to IPv6 devices, there is not enough content to lure the users in.
“They need to lead the way,” DeLong said. “Their delay is going to delay users. Nobody wants to move to ipv6 if there’s no content there.”