IPv4 – The Past and the Present
4 billion is a big number – that’s how many IPv4 addresses there are in the world, and you might imagine that that would be more than enough to accommodate all of the PCs and laptops out there. But, since the inexorable rise in popularity and usage of the Internet by the public at large since the early 1990’s, the number of available IPv4 addresses has dwindled.
- Worldwide Internet users pushing 2.5 billion people.
Look at this number in conjunction the fact that most households today will have more than one internet capable computer, but also mobile phones, tablets, and other devices that will connect to the internet, it becomes clear why IPv4 addresses have become so rare and so coveted.
In fact, IPv4 addresses are now so thin on the ground that businesses exist solely for the buying and selling of these addresses as commodities. Companies are interested in procuring more IPv4s, as they might not be fully ready, or even approaching readiness, for the switchover to IPv6. Purchasing the older IP addresses buys them time to prepare for the uptake of IPv6, without losing their current or expanding networks. Considering that in 2011 the list of free IPV4 addresses was tapped dry, it is no surprise that some enterprising folk have come up with a way to monetize them, for example:
- 2011 – Microsoft pays $7.5 million for 666, 624 IPv4 addresses, purchased from Nortel.
This makes obvious not only big business’ desire to accrue as many IPv4s as possible, but also the lucrative market that exists for them.
That is not to say that there will be a day when it is officially announced that the final IPv4 address has been handed out, but rather that those remaining ones will be used and allocated by the five worldwide RIRs (Regional Internet Registries), which are responsible for doling them out. They still have millions of IPv4 addresses between them, but these are now mostly reserved, in order to have a buffer for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 as the two cannot run together, but instead must run side-by-side if present together.
IPv6 – The Future
- According to Google’s own analytical tool, the current percentage of users that access its search engine via the IPv6 protocol is 1.36%: google.com/ipv6/statistics.html
Whilst this may seem like an insignificant number, but it is best to think of IPv6 as a snowball rolling down hill, always gathering pace and growing larger by the moment. A key example:
- 25% of Verizon’s wireless traffic is now over IPv6.
This just goes to illustrate that where there is the will to change over, the usage is there.
IPv4 addresses, even though still available to buy and utilize, cannot last forever. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address, limiting its signature to 12 digits, and meaning that there are a limited number of IPv4’s to be had – as we’ve seen.
- IPv6 is superior in that it utilizes a 128-bit address, meaning that it will allow for an essentially limitless number of addresses.
This not only means that it will provide a solution to dwindling IP addresses, but also ensures that the future should be well secure.
Another benefit of IPv6 comes into focus when looking at the age of IPv4. The IPv4 protocol was first created in the 80’s, when few could have predicted how massively popular the Internet would become, not only in business, but also in personal life.
Since IPv4 has been the worldwide standard for so long, and due to its aforementioned scarcity, many workarounds and tricks have had to be utilized to ensure that the ever-increasing load could be managed, something that will not be a problem for the IPv6 addresses, which also come with auto-configuration and security protocols inlaid.
With IPv6 also comes a faster Internet experience, whether at home or using a mobile device. The features included are:
- End to end fragmentation, meaning that it works to move data packets without fragmenting them, thus making the service quicker.
- IPv6 also maintains the same IP address, even if the user changes networks, so that the user doesn’t experience unexpected migration or delays. With roaming Internet use becoming more and more prevalent, this is a major advantage.
Overall, Ipv4 is still the widespread standard on which the Internet operates, but fixes, workarounds, and other manipulation cannot hide the fact that it doesn’t have the numbers to support us all going forward. IPv6 has the robust features and design to cope with the modern Internet and the uptake is only going to grow and grow.