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Time is running out for IPv4: Here’s what you need to know

Here's why consumers and businesses need to deploy the new Internet Protocol version 6

It’s estimated that sometime in the middle of next year, we’ll run out of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses. This means the IT community at large will need to deploy or transition to IPv6 in order to stay connected over the Internet.

During a recent webcast hosted by Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) on IPv6, Jennifer Geisler, director of government and security at Cisco, said with an increase in the number of people and devices going online the available number of IPv4 addresses is quickly diminishing. It’s estimated that there are less than five per cent of IPv4 addresses left in the total global pool today, she said. To help meet future need, IPv6 is now being deployed around the world.

Leo Vegoda, manager of number resources for IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), explained in a previous interview with CDN that, in the future, customers currently using IPv4 might not be able to communicate with those using IPv6. Because IPv6 is not backwards-compatible with IPv4, trying to communicate thru applications where two points connect, such as VoIP, will become impossible.

To help curb this communication challenge, Vegoda said as IPv4 addresses deplete, there will be a need to have both IPs running in tandem so people can communicate with each other over the Internet.

Jacques Latour, director of IT at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), said when IPv6 is deployed, IPv4 is not turned “off.” Instead, both will need to run on a dual-stack together for the next 20 years or until IPv4 is fully decommissioned in order to stay connected to the Internet.

In addition to network upgrades, new equipment will also have to be purchased if they don’t yet support IPv6 such as with routers, servers, software and switches, Vegoda added.

“If these technologies are more than eight years old, there’s a good chance (they) won’t support IPv6,” Vegoda said.

Kumar Reddy, senior product line manager at Cisco, said as more applications are being put into the cloud, consumer applications are being used on enterprise networks and as more people expect to access their content anywhere, anytime, IPv6 will become a key enabler of these new architectures.

Latour said in Canada, the implementation of IPv6 across the country is still a “work in progress.”

“A lot of work is still to be done in terms of implementing IPv6 across Canada,” Latour said. “It’s a work in progress. ISPs are actively working on planning their IPv6 deployments.”

What’s important for channel partners to remember is they’ll need to help their customers’ IT departments with the transition to IPv6 by conducting assessments, planning, trials and training.

“The transition to IPv6 requires a plan,” Geisler said. “IPv6 is not rip and replace. Customers will need to implement new IPv6 capabilities and preserve existing IPv4 functionality for years to come. As customers prepare for IPv6, they can use a phased approach with a structured plan.”

Furthermore, Latour said transitioning to IPv6 requires a “comprehensive migration and transition plan” that involves taking an inventory of the existing equipment to see what’s IPv6 compliant and what isn’t.

“Look at your existing management tools and see which ones support IPv6,” Latour said. “Security is also a big issue in IPv6 because all of the firewall rules, access lists and policies that are built on IPv4 also need to be ported onto the IPv6 infrastructure. Operational support and processes are also needed in-house as well,” he added.

Jennifer Austin, a spokesperson at CIRA, also said the ability to transition to IPv6 in a timely fashion is important.

“If Canadians don’t move to IPv6 in a timely manner, they may not be able to access certain things on the Internet,” Austin said. “This could have a significant impact if people don’t adopt IPv6 at a quick enough rate because they’ll be excluded from certain things. With IPv6, it opens the door for Canadians to get complete Internet access.”

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.