AD: If the Internet could run out of addresses, do you think it could happen to our neighbourhood as well?
BC: What do you mean?
AD: I’m talking about IP addresses — Internet Protocol addresses. You must have seen numbers arranged in four sets, like 192.168.1.1, for instance. Each number can vary between 0 and 255.
BC: So that’s how you get so many combinations.
AD: Absolutely. 2^32, to be precise, which leaves you with 4.3 billion addresses.
BC: That’s a lot! And we managed to use up all that?
AD: Well, the current protocol that we are following — IPv4 or Internet Protocol version 4 — was created in the ‘70s. At that time, 4.3 billion did seem like a staggering number.
BC: So what are we doing about it now?
AD: The shift is on, from IPv4 to IPv6, or Internet Protocol version 6.
BC: How’s IPv6 different?
AD: It has four digit hexadecimal numbers, arranged in sets of eight.
BC: I guess that means more options.
AD: Right! It works out to 2^128 — or 340 undecillion — addresses.
BC: 340 undecided what?
AD: Undecillion — that's 340 followed by 36 zeroes.
BC: That's huge! We'll take forever to exhaust that.
AD: Consider this — of the 4.3 billion addresses, we’ve used up the last billion in just six years, between 2006 and now. It just goes on to show the proliferation of internet devices and the number of users.
BC: I thought IP addresses referred to websites only.
AD: No, each computer and Internet-enabled device are also assigned an IP address. And with millions of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that have come into use in recent times.
BC: So does that signify the end of IPv4?
AD: No, just when everyone thought it was the end of the world, a new policy has been set in place which allows transfers of IPv4 addresses from regions where they are still available.
BC: …to regions where they’ve already been exhausted.
AD: Right, the beneficiaries mostly being from the Asia Pacific region, because they were the first to run out of IPv4 addresses.
BC: And who’s the donor? You said that the world was running out of IPv4 addresses.
AD: IPv4 addresses are distributed in blocks to regions, from where they are further distributed to service providers. So, while the blocks of addresses have been exhausted, some regions still have unused addresses. The African region, for instance, has IP addresses to last them almost till the end of this decade.
BC: So while some are migrating to IPv6, the rest are buying up IPv4 addresses from wherever they are available.
AD: I guess everyone will eventually move to IPv6, but the transfer of IPv4 addresses is to help companies during the transition period.
BC: So what’s the progress made?
AD: June 8, 2011 saw the World IPv6 Day, a day when several leading companies like Cisco, Facebook, Google, Juniper Networks, Microsoft and Yahoo participated in a test run of their IPv6 websites for 24 hours.
BC: How did it go?
AD: It had a lot of support from the big names. And June 6, 2012 was the World IPv6 Launch, when IPv6 was permanently enabled globally.
BC: How about India? Are we inclined towards this new development?
AD: Not really. Reports indicate that India is still playing catch up...
BC: Well, we’ve always valued cricket more than technology.
AD: What’s the connection?
BC: After five seasons of IPL, looks like our support is more for IPL 6 than IPv6.
By L. Suresh