Once You Go IPv6 You Won't Go Back

Today is IPv6 Day, are you ready?

In case you didn't already know, today is the second annual World IPv6 day (or IPv6 Launch Day).  Last year, some of the leading website operators and ISPs switched over to IPv6 for the day. Despite predictions of doom and gloom, the day went off with hardly a hitch. Of course, that was due to a lot of planning and forethought by a lot of engineers, but nevertheless it proved that it can be done. This year, they will not be switching back to IPv4 after the day. IPv6 is here to stay.

What made the switch over last year painless was the ability of IPv6 to coexist with IPv4. IPv6 can ride inside of IPv4 (or is it the other way around?) or alongside IPv4. This dual-stack capability means that most anything made to support IPv6 will also support IPv4. This makes life much easier for us all.

But there are still some IPv4 technologies that don't play nicely with IPv6. Windows XP, for instance, does not have native IPv6 support. Much older network gear does not support IPv6 either. As I said though, this should not be a fatal problem to the overwhelming majority of us. Like Y2K, the hand wringing over IPv6 has proven largely unfounded.

Why switch to IPv6, you ask? The answer is simple, though there are those who doubt its validity. We live in an age of IP explosion. We don't have enough IPv4 numbers to handle all of the IP-enabled devices we now have. 

Yes, there are those who say that we have plenty of unused IPv4 space left. We could be more efficient in our use of IP addresses and not need IPv6 for a long time. But the fact is that reclaiming these unused numbers would be a bit of a chore and though more efficient, I think it could crimp expansion, innovation and growth. Eventually, no matter how frugal we are, we are going to run out. Now is as good a time as any to move to IPv6.

Think about how many IP-enabled devices you have in your household. In my house with my wife, two sons, age 10 and 12, and myself, we account for almost 30 IP addresses. We have three TVs that are either Ethernet or wirelessly connected to the net. We have 3 satellite boxes connected to the net for on demand. We have a Blu-ray player that is Internet connected, a pogoplug back-up device with several USB hard drives, 3 laptops, one desktop, 4 tablet/pads, 4 cellphones, an Xbox, a Wii, a DS3, DSi, the electric meter, an alarm clock, 2 iPod touch, VOIP phone system, etc. That doesn't include the next generation of appliances that will be Internet enabled, too. Take a minute and consider how many IPs you are using at your house.

While many of these devices don't use public IP space, they all need an address. You can see where all of those IPs are going. Predictions are that soon almost half the world's population will be on the net. Think about how many IP addresses 3+ billion people will need.  So whether you think we could get by on IPv4 for now or not, it is inevitable that we will need IPv6. Better to get ready now than later.

IPv6 will bring more benefits than just virtually unlimited IP address space. One thing IPv6 is better at is security. Where security was pretty much an afterthought with IPv4, it has been built into IPv6. Traffic is encrypted by default. It should render VPN's pretty much obsolete. Of course, scanning an IPv6 network could take eons using IPv4 methods. But the vulnerability management vendors are already dealing with this issue. I hosted an excellent panel at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this year on the subject.

So stop today and make today the day we made the switch. You may not notice anything different.  A lot of people have spent a lot of cycles to make sure of that. There is no going back. IPv6 is here to stay.

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