Last month (our June 30 issue), we predicted a wondrous future in which everything from PCs and PDAs to cell phones, automobiles, and other devices are connected to the Internet. The only problem: Well soon run out of IP addresses to support these devices. The new version of Internet Protocol, IPv6, upgrades the IP address space from 32 bits to 128 bits, increasing the number of available addresses from a paltry 4 billion to more than 35 trillion, which will be enough to support all these new devices and more. IPv6 provides many other advantages as well.
Auto-configuration. Configuring IP addresses is one of the biggest headaches novices run into when connecting to the Internet or switching ISPs. With IPv6, any device can obtain an address simply by plugging into the network. The device creates its own address automatically and then checks the network for duplicate addresses. For better privacy, the device can change its address for each outgoing session and maintain one private internal network address and one fixed public address. All this will greatly simplify address management.
Mobile IP. Mobile IP lets users roam from network to network—even over huge distances—while maintaining a single connection. Both IPv4 and IPv6 offer such capabilities, but IPv6 does it better.