Vint Cerf is Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist. When he talks, people listen. And he says, “the transition to IPv6 is one of the most important steps we will take together to protect the internet as we know it.”
We know IPv6 is necessary. We know that IPv4 addresses are running out, and we realise that as a global people we need to make the transition to make sure future generations have the same open and direct access to the internet as we do today.
But it’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities and bogged down by the detail. And it’s hard to see beyond this to the true potential of this change in IP address management.
It’s time we raised our heads and looked at the future, seeing IPv6 for what it is — the development that will single-handedly make sure the internet can continue to grow unfettered, supporting everything we ask it to.
But what would happen if we said ‘no’ to IPv6?
Let’s take a walk on the dark side.
Internet growth would grind to a halt, IP addresses would be rationed — perhaps you’d inherit them? — and a black market would flourish. You could buy an iPhone5, but could only use it if you had an IP address to allocate to it.
Perhaps most importantly, control of the internet would lie in the hands of big business and the wealthy. Start-ups, people with an idea in a back bedroom and children just having a go — all that innovation would be stifled, to the ultimate detriment of us all.
Scoping the IPv6 future
IPv6 means that everything that needs an IP address can have one. Where IPv4 accommodates around 4.3 billion addresses, IPv6 has the capacity to provide every IPv4 address with its own internet’s worth of IPv4 addresses.
That’s 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible internet addresses; 100 for every atom on the face of the Earth.
The ways we use technology and the speed with which new ways to use technology are being invented needs the security of IPv6’s scope. By 2015 there will be more than 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices alone; nearly equal to the world’s projected population by that time. And by 2020 there will be 50 billion things connected to the internet.
The Internet of Things, where physical objects go online, talking to each other and developing their own intelligence — all relies on IPv6. Central heating, cars, lighting, power distribution, environmental sensors, clothes and packaging are just a taste of what could communicate online.
Within just a few years you could live in a world where your alarm clock coordinates demands from other elements in your life — your car needing a five minute stop on your journey to re-fuel; your calendar updating that your first meeting has been pushed back; your usual route giving notification of an accident and estimating delay times — re-setting to give you an extra ten minutes snooze, but still making sure the heating comes on in time to warm everything up for when you get up, and that the coffee is fresh and hot. And that’s all before you’ve even got out of bed.
Magnify that. Think big. Embrace change.
To find out how BT has been preparing for IPv6 click here.