Remember Y2K? Well, Brace Yourself for IPv6!

Every now and again, certain milestones are reached in the world of technology that mean change, and they are usually brought about by the simple fact no one ever expected the whole world of technology to get so darned 'big' (well, ok, with Y2K apparently they did not expect computers to have to operate 10-15 years into the future… and that still mystifies me today).

Back on topic though.

Unbeknownst to all but the most devoted closet techies, the last block of IPv4 addresses are being sold off as we speak. What is an IPv4 and why do you care? Well, that is an IP address. Every smart phone, router or other Internet device must have its own IP address to function (its that number you see that looks like 192.168.123.190). When the schema was dreamed up, the 32 bit standard with 4.3 billion or so available numbers seemed like, well, a lot. A whole lot. Turns out, it was not enough, and now we are going to run out.

But, there is always a fix! Say hello to IPv6, which uses 128 bit numbers. How many is that? To be honest, my calculator shows an E when I try to come up with it. Suffice it to say that it is enough that every person on the planet could have trillions of devices needing their own IP address and we would still have lots of room to grow. Based on my one router, 3 cell phones and 2 iPads, I'm going to be just fine.. even if I add a few things. It makes the current 4.3 billion look like a really teeny tiny number.

But, there is a hassle of sorts for us all to be aware of, and one that the media may play up (if it is not deemed to techie to be scary). Sometime in the next few years, all the remaining IPv4 numbers will be assigned and we will have to transition to the new system. Kinda like Y2K.

But, this should not be too painful. For most of us it means a new router shipped from our Internet provider. For SMB IT it will possibly mean replacing some older routers or other equipment, or perhaps just firmware updates and some elbow grease. Software won't have to be re-writting in mass scale as Windows has been ready for IPv6 since XP SP1. For most of my readers (yes, both of you), I anticipate this won't be a massive issue, but it is not a bad idea to be thinking about IPv6 when purchasing new equipment or upgrading, just to be sure that all investments are appropriate in light of upcoming changes. A few simple questions of your IT support and you can rest assured that you will not be making any short sighted decisions today!

Well, if you remember Y2K, you may remember that despite all concerns, planes did not fall out of the sky, and the world did not come to an end. IPv6, much like Y2K will be more of a media event than a real event for most of us. We have not yet found the proverbial 'end of the internet'. Take a deep breath and relax knowing you will be just fine with your dozen mobile devices and home computers. IPv6 is here to help us avert disaster.

If you want to learn more, just Google it. There are mountains of technical articles out there!

Without IP addresses, we would not be able to continue practicing

Happy Computing!

 -Richard Brunke

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