It is very important for individuals and businesses that depend on the web for their livelihood to be aware of IPv4 address exhaustion as an ongoing issue of significance to the future organization of the Internet.
The media has framed IPv4 address exhaustion as a matter of the Internet ‘running out of addresses.’ More precisely, address exhaustion refers to the expiration date on IPv4′s supply of IP addresses. 32-bit IPv4 (“Internet Protocol version Four”) has long been the fundamental parameter for web addressing, but in the first months of 2011, it encountered its own mathematically-given growth ceiling, about 4.3 billion addresses.
It Takes 128 Bits
Given the inherent limitations of the 32-bit standard, it seems we are on a collision course with the laws of exponents: We now need a much larger pool of IPs to keep up with the growing web. This is no problem at all, mathematically. We just add more numbers—or in digital-speak, “bits.” Salvation for the IP structure of the Net thus lies in the adoption of IPv6: The 128-bit replacement protocol quietly waiting for its 32-bit predecessor v4 to become officially obsolete.
And here lies the problem; truth is IPv4 is already obsolete. However, IPv6 is still buggy, and many concerns remain about the security of its insufficiently tested protocol. These factors, added to the inertia of habits and budgets, have inhibited progress on the inconvenient, yet essential Internet-wide transition to IPv6-based systems.
Competing IP Systems?
The switch has been slow to catch on, even as v4 addresses grow scarce. IPv6 users remain in the minority. The conspicuous absence of an orderly transition has observers predicting a web partitioned into mutually incompatible IP communication systems.
The future of effective web communication depends on IPv6’s extension to 3.4 x 1038 possible addresses. Any company that plans to successfully operate via the Internet must assign v6-friendly addresses to its outbound servers and network connections. This practice ensures access to IPv6 traffic. For those who use the servers of a web host, it is wise to check for IPv6 readiness when exploring options associated with the cloud.
IP structure is at the core of the web’s efficacy as an information highway. The significance of the IPv4 to IPv6 transition will only grow over time, as we publish our way into the next phase of the Internet.
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