Archive for November 11th, 2011
What Is IPv6?
If you haven’t heard of IPv6, you’re not alone, but you’ll be hearing a lot more about the new Internet addressing scheme as time goes on. Under the current addressing scheme, known as IPv4, computers have a numerical address in the form of XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX. Each “XXX” is a number between 0 and 255. The first, first and second, or first, second and third number groups are used to represent the network the computer sits on, and the remaining numbers are used to identify the computer itself.
This addressing scheme has worked for a long time, but the explosion of computers and networked devices – including mobile devices that can join and leave networks easily – has created more demand for network addresses than are actually available under the addressing system. To accommodate the growing number of network devices, the powers that be developed a new addressing system called IPv6. The IPv6 addressing system has many more numbers available – 340 undecillion to be exact – addresses which means it will be around for a long time, but switching over to the new system will not be easy. And yes, in case you’re wondering, “undecillion” is a word. It means 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
Many computers and other devices don’t understand IPv6 or simply don’t use it yet. IPv6 was announced in 1998, so it’s been around for quite awhile. Network device manufacturers have, for the most part, incorporated IPv6 support into routers and other lower-level network devices, to help ensure that the routing infrastructure can manage IPv6. ISPs are now beginning to request and distribute IPv6 assignments.
Only a very small percentage of computers on the Internet use IPv6, but that will change soon enough. What happens in the mean time, however is that network operations (like DNS lookups) will actually slow down until the issue is addressed at the OS level. That may be a bummer for you in the short run, but eventually the new addressing scheme will not only make Internet operations faster, but will also allow many more computers and network devices to join the Internet.
Photo Credit: DBreg2007, via Flickr
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