It’s no secret that the number of available IPv4 addresses has been exhausted. It has been common knowledge for quite some time among industry professionals that the end was near. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of IPv6, but those who are outside of the technical community are left scratching their heads.

Businesses use the internet on a daily basis, but not many are aware that there is a major change on the horizon. Since most of the ground work for IPv6 has been conducted behind the scenes, everyday users do not have a concrete understanding of what IPv6 is and how it will impact them.

What is IPv6?

An Internet Protocol, or IP address, is a number that identifies each sender or receiver of information sent over the internet. IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) is the latest protocol being used to direct internet traffic. The current version, IPv4, has reached exhaustion and no longer has enough IP addresses to support the growing number of internet users. In an attempt to delay the extinction of IPv4, Network Address Translating (NAT) was introduced. NAT is the process where a public IP address is assigned to a device, or group of devices, inside a private network. However, this only slowed down the inevitable depletion of IPv4 addresses.

IPv6 is capable of providing 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses, while IPv4 was only able to supply 4 billion IP addresses. With the expansion of the total amount of IP spaces available, IPv6 is contributing to the continued growth of the internet by allowing many more devices and users on the Internet.

Why Make the Switch?

For many, the transition to IPv6 began last year when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) divided the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses amongst the individual regional Internet registries in February. Currently, there are no longer any IPv4 addresses in the Asia-Pacific region, and industry observers have predicted that Europe, Latin America, Africa, and North America will run out of IPv4 addresses by 2014.

Most modern operating systems, such as Apple’s Mac OS X, newer versions of Microsoft Windows, and major Linux distributions, have been prepared for the transition to IPv6 for several years. However, users who do not have access to more modern operating systems will be required to install dual-stacked, or dual-protocol, hardware that will be able to communicate with both versions until IPv4 becomes extinct.

By implementing the tools necessary to access IPv6 enabled sites, users will be able to browse the internet without any limitations. Initiating the transition early can ensure that there is no loss in connectivity as IPv6 sites become the primary version in use.

The switch from IPv4 to IPv6 is inevitable as a growing number of users and devices connect to the internet and exhaust the limited number of IPv4 addresses that remain. As businesses and users throughout the world continue to connect online, IPv6 will provide the space needed to accommodate the growth of the internet.

Vanessa Hartung

Marketing Content Specialist

TeraGo Networks