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IPv6 - What the Heck?

First came IPv4 – an interesting story in itself given that the original protocol for the internet was named TCP, and entered into its third version before IP came about – giving birth to Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4).

IPv5 was quickly eclipsed by the speed of technological advancements and now we have IPv6 – well almost. IPv6 is still chugging along, desperately trying to get noticed like an annoying middle child.

IPv6 however will quickly become a reality as we exhaust the few remaining IPv4 addresses from the finite batch of 3.4 million addresses that were available through version 4’s protocol. IPv6 comparatively will give us 340 undecillion addresses, or 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses – to be precise.

IPv6 recently gained ever-so-slightly more notoriety after the World IPv6 Test Day was successfully completed on June 8th, 2011. After the Test Day IPv6 has all but fizzled out – again, despite the day’s 400 high-profile participants, which included the likes of Google, Facebook, Comcast and Yahoo!.

Participants said that despite the IPv6 traffic spike (from a meager fraction to a slightly-more-than-meager fraction) almost every participant has since switched off their IPv6 enabling technology and gone back to IPv4. The world wasn’t quite ready for it, even though most users had no idea companies had flipped the switch.

One of the reasons industry experts are citing for the delay in IPv6 adoption is the estimated 0.05% of users who will be unable to connect to IPv6. This 0.05% of users are why no company wants to be the first to permanently flip the switch, out of fear that their clients will go to their IPv4-using competitors.

Qing Li, an industry-wide recognized IPv6 expert used IPv6 Test Day to look for botnets, URLs that need blacklisting, malware, and for packet analysis to find users looking to circumvent the IPv6’s security policies – and he is still sifting through the results. Li believes the Test Day to be a success as it did get people talking about IPv6, and that was the main goal of the event.

And this is true, people are talking about IPv6 – they just aren’t USING it. Some naysayers of the event believe that it triggered doubts in the protocol and may have helped create fear that will help entrench an IPv4 aftermarket, with companies scooping up as many additional IPv4 addresses as they can. Microsoft just bought 666,000 IPv4 addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million.

IPv6 analysts believe that once the IPv4 addresses finally dry up and the world is forced onto IPv6, Asia will be the first stronghold. Asia has far less legacy IPv4-only networking equipment and software. This impending IPv6 Asian stronghold may help bring the technology to the rest of the world as others are forced to become IPv6 compatible in order to do business with the robust Asian economies.

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