The federal government has set a self-imposed deadline of 2008 for its agencies to migrate to IPv6, and that has many in the tech industry asking questions. Is this the push that will finally thrust IPv6 into the mainstream? Is now the time for enterprises to make the transition? Predictably, the answers to these questions really depend on who you ask.
For starters, the Internet protocol is defined as the method by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet, according to our friends at
Developed in the 1980s, IPv4 is an early version of the Internet protocol that assigns IP addresses of 32 bits to the multitudes of websites out there in cyberspace. At the time, no one really bothered to consider what would happen when all those addresses were exhausted. Or if they did, they kept their thoughts to themselves.
But the day when IPv4 reaches its IP address limit is coming. I can't give you an exact date, of course, but it will happen.
To prevent running out of IP addresses, then, the next version of the Internet protocol was developed. IPv6 operates in much the same way as IPv4, but with one very important distinction: IPv6 assigns IP addresses of 128 rather than 32 bits, thereby vastly increasing the total number of possible addresses. It also addresses (pun intended) certain weaknesses in IPv4, including a lack of IPsec and QoS functionality.
But some experts think the notion that IPv4 addresses are nearing their end, say within the next five years or so, is utter nonsense. They believe that IPv4 has a good many years left and don't want to see it retired before its time. Plus, the transition to IPv6 may not be the smoothest, so why make the move prematurely, they argue.
Never the less, everyone agrees that IPv4's lifespan is finite and eventually we'll all have to make the transition to IPv6, like it or not.
So there are no easy answers to the IPv6 question, unfortunately. Ultimately, each enterprise will have to decide when the time is right to make the move for themselves. To help make that decision and for more information on IPv6, check out the following SearchNetworking.com resources:
This was first published in March 2006