Yesterday we reached a significant milestone in the final phases of the IPv4 era of internet addresses. The group that actually allocates the addresses, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), allocated two of the last seven blocks of IP addresses in the IPv4 space. That action will trigger the automatic distribution of the last five blocks to each of the five regional Internet registries that will eventually issue the addresses to the ISP’s and other companies that actually need the addresses. If you are going anywhere on the net, you need an IP address, think of an IP address as the token that gets you from point to point. There are approximately 4.3 billion addresses in the IPv4 space which are almost exhausted, while the next generation IP address space, IPv6 contains significantly more like around 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. That should hold us for the next few decades, maybe.
Everyone is excited about all this new capacity that IPv6 represents but nobody is excited about transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 because the two protocols are completely incompatible. Everyone thinks it will take at least a full year for the full IPv6 infrastructure to be stood up and for providers to come up with a way to support both protocols. The transition will not be easy and will be costly, but with all the new devices coming online that will require IP addresses this is a necessary move.
To understand just how bad an issue we are looking at the Internet Society is organizing what they are calling World IPv6 Day. On that day, currently set for June 8, several of the Internet’s largest players will offer their services over IPv6 for 24 hours for global evaluation and troubleshooting.