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By: MarkJ - 12 November, 2010 (8:45 AM)
ipv6The 'Father of the Internet' and Google vice-president, Vinton Gray "Vint" Cerf, has launched a new UK website - 6UK - to help raise awareness of the fact that existing Internet Protocol ( IPv4 ) addresses will finally run out next year and could lead to a slew of problems if broadband ISPs and internet services fail to adapt.

Vinton Gray Cerf told a 6UK launch event in London:

"There's no question we're going to be out of address space by springtime of 2011 [and], with more devices than ever set to join the internet, such as mobile devices and the 'internet of things', IPv6 will be critical to the future of the internet.

You need to be able to talk to everyone in the world that is on the internet. If Europe doesn't implement IPv6, it wont be able to talk to the rest of the world that does implement IPv6; that's stupid, and we don't want people here to be stupid.

It continues to boggle my mind that the UK has not taken this up as an issue. People will ask why their new smart devices don’t work. All the promise and potential of these devices will fail if the ISPs don’t grasp this."

IPv4 addresses are assigned to your computer each time you go online (e.g. 85.23.56.198). This acts as a unique online identifier made up of four number groupings and allows you to communicate with other computers around the world; not unlike a phone number.

Sadly IPv4 addresses, used since 1984, provide roughly 4.3 billion addresses, of which only around 180 million (roughly 5%) remain available; it would be easy to consume that many before the end of 2011. As a result IPv6 was designed, which is not only longer but also more secure by design. They are 128bits long, written in hexadecimal and separated by colons.
Example IPv6 Address
2ffe:1800:3525:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf
Cerf's comments have predictably triggered a raft of news items, with some interpreting his words to mean an "internet crash" or people, perhaps even entire countries, becoming "cut-off" from the internet completely. Rubbish.

An inability to handle native IPv6 addresses could result in IPv4 address sharing (that should be fun for an IP reliant Digital Economy Act), slower performance and potentially even some related security problems. However ISPs can use both IPv4 and IPv6 together, otherwise such a migration would be impossible, yet all will eventually have to do IPv6 natively.

Certainly the largest difficulty will be in terms of expansion. Any network/service that is reliant upon pure IPv4 infrastructure wouldn't be able to add new internet connections when there are no addresses left to allocate.

A September 2010 study of global Internet Protocol v6 ( IPv6 ) readiness conduct by the Number Resource Organization (here) found that 60% of ISPs already offer, or plan to offer within the next year, IPv6 to consumers; with 70% doing the same for businesses. Just 10% had no plans at all to offer IPv6 to consumers or businesses.
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