IPv4 vs. IPv6

Migration has been gradual, but the move to IPv6 could speed up with IPv4 addresses running out

Migration has been gradual, but the move to IPv6 could speed up with IPv4 addresses running out

The argument about how best to upgrade the Internet’s main communications protocol raged in the Internet Engineering Task Force in the early 1990s. By then, experts realized that the Internet would eventually run out of address space with the original version of the Internet Protocol, known as IPv4.

The issue of what direction to take with the next-generation of IP came to a head at a 1994 IETF meeting in Toronto. Ultimately, the IETF decided to replace the 32-bit addressing scheme in IPv4 with a 128-bit addressing scheme in IPv6. The standards body tried to create other reasons to upgrade to IPv6, including built-in security with IPsec and easier management through autoconfiguration of devices.

Nearly a decade after IPv6 was finalized, the network industry has yet to embrace the new protocol. That’s because a forklift upgrade to IPv6 is too expensive and time consuming for a carrier or enterprise, with little measurable return. Instead, the network industry anticipates a gradual transition to IPv6, which will likely run side by side with IPv4 for many years to come.

Now it appears that IPv6 is finally winning this argument. The American Registry for Internet Numbers recommended in May that the Internet community start migrating to IPv6.

In fact, some industry experts predict that there are only around 1,200 days left until the Internet runs out of IPv4 addresses. Leading the charge to IPv6 is the U.S. federal government, which has mandated that all agencies support the new protocol in their backbone networks by June 2008.

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