Out of IPv4 Addresses

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Out of IPv4 Addresses

On Feb. 3, 2011, the central pool of available IPv4 addresses managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was depleted when each Regional Internet Registry (RIR) received its last IPv4 addresses. The five RIRs (AfriNIC, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC and the RIPE NCC) will continue to allocate IPv4 address space to their members in accordance with their community-based regional policies until their pools of available IPv4 addresses are depleted. It is difficult to predict when the RIRs will run out of IPv4 addresses.

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What's IPv4? IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol version 4. It is the underlying technology that makes it possible for users to connect their devices to the Web. When a device accesses the Internet (whether it's a PC, Mac, smartphone or other device), it's assigned a unique, numerical IP address. To send data from one computer to another, a data packet must be transferred across the network containing the IP addresses of both devices. Without IP addresses, computers would not be able to communicate and send data to each other.

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IPv6 is the sixth revision and the successor to IPv4. It functions similarly to IPv4 in that it provides the unique, numerical IP addresses necessary for Internet-enabled devices to communicate. However, it does sport one major difference: It utilizes 128-bit addresses.

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Why Move to Ipv6

The key difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is that IPv6 has significantly more address space. While the addresses look different, users won't be aware of any difference. A typical IPv6 address has eight groups of four letters and numbers separated by colons, so it looks like this: 2001:db8:1f70:999:de8:7648:6e8. The expanded addressing capacity of IPv6 will enable the trillions of new Internet addresses needed to support connectivity for a huge range of smart devices, including phones, household appliances and vehicles. IPv6 also offers enhanced quality of service, which is needed for new applications such as IP telephony, video/audio, interactive games or e-commerce.

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The deployment of IPv6 is imperative to the long-term growth, security and stability of the Internet.

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According to the results from a survey measuring Ipv6 deployment, more than 70 percent of the 1,600 respondents worldwide—half of which were Internet Service Providers (ISPs)—said they plan to deploy IPv6 on their networks by the end of 2012.

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Slow Down

Without IPv6, the lack of Internet addresses would mean that eventually, users' favorite Web programs would slow down.

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Difficult Communications

A lack of Internet addresses also would mean that eventually, computers would have a harder time communicating with each other, making the ability to offer services like Skype difficult.

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Privacy Compromised

Privacy also would be an issue without more Internet addresses. Eventually, users' privacy would be compromised, because with all the dividing of addresses, it would be hard to tell the difference between one user and another computer user down the street.

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The cost and complexity associated with keeping track of and managing remaining IPv4 address space efficiently would increase. For network operators and other entities that rely on Internet numbering allocations, it would become increasingly difficult and expensive (and eventually prohibitively so) to obtain new IPv4 address space to grow their networks.

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The transition to IPv6 will require an industry-wide collaboration of ISPs, Web companies, hardware makers and OS vendors. They all need to ensure products and services are ready for the transition. ISPs need to make IPv6 connectivity available to their users, Web companies need to offer their sites and applications over IPv6, and OS vendors may need to implement specific software updates. In addition, backbone providers may need to establish IPv6 peering with each other. Hardware and home gateway manufacturers may need to update firmware.

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Cutover Date

There is no specific date when everything needs to be upgraded to IPv6 (although some organizations, including governments, have already identified target dates for their own IPv6 implementation). IPv6 and its transition mechanisms have been designed for a long period of co-existence with IPv4, and IPv4-only systems and applications are expected to survive for many years. However, IPv6-only systems will eventually hit the market, and many users are likely to be in emerging business markets and developing countries.

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Running Out of IPv6 Addresses

There's no real danger of running out of IPv6 addresses. An enormous amount of IP address space exists under IPv6, and this addressing capacity will enable the trillions of new Internet addresses needed to support connectivity for the growing numbers of smart devices.

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Core Specifications

The core IPv6 specifications increasingly are becoming available as a standard part of product and service offerings. However, not all products are fully IPv6-capable right now, and some significant upgrade gaps remain, especially in low-end consumer equipment. Similarly, while many software applications and operating systems (especially in open-source code) have already been updated for IPv6, not all products (including some from major vendors) are fully IPv6-ready.

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IPv6 Traffic

IPv6 traffic today remains small in comparison to IPv4. As more network operators deploy IPv6 and continue to exchange information about experience and best practices through established operators groups, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other forums, the level of community knowledge will grow.

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