Internet shifts to new IPv6 protocol

Today, a new protocol goes live on much of the Internet as IPv6 permanently replaces IPv4 on more than 1,000 Web sites, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other major Web brands.

One year ago, those same Web sites ran a one-day test of the protocol to make sure the Internet wouldn’t break when the switch was made. Everything went smoothly enough and now the shift has been made for good. It’s not a change the average user will notice, but IT managers and network operators have been preparing for. The new protocol is needed to avoid another “Y2K” style problem in which the Internet runs out of IP addresses to assign to connected devices.

IPv4 has only 4.3 billion addresses, and with PCs, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, and just about everything else connecting to the Internet we’ve tapped the system dry. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and is capable of 340 undecillion addresses. That is 340 times 10 to the 36th power, or 340 trillion trillion trillion possible IP addresses.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority is also joining in on the IPv6 shift. Today, it’s reporting the deployment of the new protocol across Canada with the help of Viagenie. Here’s where Canada stands as of June 5:

  • 2069 dot-ca domains have an IPv6 DNS record, but just 1768 are actually reachable by IPv6.
  • Nearly 64,000 e-mail servers can receive mail over IPv6
  • There are more than half a million domain names supported by a server by a IPv6 address DNS record

SMBs need to be aware that IPv6 is here, and make sure that any future PC, mobile device, network infrastructure, or other IT purchases support the next generation protocol. IPv4 should still be alive and kicking long enough for most organizations to transition to IPv6 by attrition over time.

What are the top three reasons an SMB should care or make the switch to IPv6?

1. Inevitability

The simple fact of the matter is that IPv6 will soon be the only option for adding new devices or hosts on the Internet. SMBs should be transitioning to IPv6 so they’re prepared when the inevitable day comes that IPv4 is no longer supported. Embracing IPv6 sooner rather than later will allow SMBs to operate with the peace of mind that the extinction of IPv4 won’t impact their businesses.

2. Efficiency

Nguyen explains, “IPv6 simplifies and speeds up data transmission by handling packets more efficiently, and removing the need to check packet integrity. This frees valuable router time that can be better-spent moving data.”

With enough unique IP addresses to go around (and then some), organizations won’t have to rely on NAT to connect to the Internet. IPv6 eliminates most of the address conflict issues common under IPv4, and enables more streamlined connections and communication for devices

3. Security

When networking gurus and researchers developed IPv4 security hadn’t really crossed their minds. IPv4 was never meant to be secure.

IPv6 has been built from the ground up with security in mind. Many of the security features that have been duct-taped after the fact onto IPv4 as optional features are integrated into IPv6 as default requirements. IPv6 encrypts traffic and checks packet integrity to provide VPN-like protection for standard Internet traffic

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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