Some people are treating it as another buzzword that goes right up
there with synergy and others are reluctant to look past its
arcane structure, yet IPv6 is becoming more and more important.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, let's start with a brief
explanation of these terms.
An Internet Protocol address
is a unique address that certain devices (such as your computer) use to
identify other devices on a computer network and communicate with them.
Whenever you use the Internet, you are doing so via an IP address.
IPv4 is the fourth
revision of the Internet Protocol and is the dominant network layer
protocol on the Internet. Though it can theoretically have a maximum of
about 4.3 billion addresses, some of these are reserved for special
purposes and most of the others are already in use somewhere. Even if
they weren't and we distributed all of them among the world's population,
we would still be over 2 billion IPs short. According to
this article, we will run out of IPv4 addresses in 2010.
An IPv4 address looks like this: 172.16.45.54
So what happens in 2010? If not for
IPv6, any new users
(human or otherwise) trying to get onto the Internet would have a hard
time. With more and more Internet-capable devices being made available,
they would have to go through all sorts of loops to be able to host a
website or make their toaster accessible to the world.
IPv6 on the other hand, provides 340 trillion, trillion, trillion
unique addresses which might be enough to assign an IP to each organism
on the planet (sorry, I can't find detailed statistics on how many there
are, but you'd be surprised to know that the number of bacteria in a
single human being can total into the trillions). An IPv6 address looks
something like this: 2001:0db8:85a3:08d3:1319:8a2e:0370:7344
Virtually all of the hardware and software that makes up the
Internet's core already supports v6. Even your typical operating
system and browser has had support for it for some time (Linux has
supported IPv6 since version 2.1.8, released in 1996, while Windows NT
had it in 2002. Vista has it enabled by default). You can even run v6 in
parallel with IPv4 and this is the most common configuration.
The main hurdle just seems to be understanding the concept and putting
everything together. I must admit that it isn't a simple protocol and not
just in the number of bits that this address comprises of. I
still have no clue about IPv6 routing and other calculations.
Nevertheless, I wanted to dabble in it and develop some web-based
tools for v6, but my hosting service doesn't support IPv6 and I'm
hard-pressed to find a good one that does (while also matching the rest
of my prerequisites).
The solution to that was to request a free IP or subnet assignment
from one of the "tunnel brokers" that allow you to make use of IPv6 by
encapsulating the packets within IPv4, also known as tunnelling.
Upon Zaeem's recommendation, I managed to get a couple of these from the
BT Exact Tunnel Broker Service
and have configured IPv6 addresses on my servers. Will soon be posting
an update on the network tools that I have been working on that now
support IPv6, thanks to this service.
As an ISP, we are in a good position to play a role in more
widespread adoption of IPv6. Though we are currently only running it
for testing (and educational) purposes, we should be able to incorporate
it into the core network.