Has it been an entire year already? A year ago many major Internet service providers and online resources put IPv6 through a test run. Now--In just a couple days—most of those same IPv6 pioneers will turn on IPv6 for good. Are you ready for IPv6?
The short answer is probably “yes.” Actually, for most people the answer is more like “probably, but it shouldn’t really matter.”
The good news is that you don’t really have to be “ready” because the IPv4 protocol that makes up the backbone of the Internet is not going to suddenly shut off. IPv4 is running out of addresses, and it’s definitely showing its age, but it’s not going away completely any time soon.
The powers that be have been sounding the alarm bell about the “quickly” diminishing pool of IPv4 IP addresses for years. It’s gotten to the point that it almost has the ring of “sky is falling” hyperbole. But, it is true that there is a limited supply of IPv4 addresses, and that the explosion of IP-enabled devices--smartphones, tablets, game consoles, streaming-enabled TVs or TV devices like Apple TV, and more--is going to suck the pool dry quickly.
Now IPv6 is finally here. Instead of the “mere” 4.3 billion IP addresses possible with IPv4, we will now have a seemingly unfathomable 340 undecillion (340 times 10 to the 36th power) addresses. 4.3 billion isn't even enough for every person on Earth to have a connected device, and there are about 30 IP addresses being used just in my home, so we have a problem. The new Internet protocol will have plenty of room for growth…and then some.
IPv6 is about more than just expanding the available pool of IP addresses, though. IPv6 also incorporates security in ways that IPv4 does not. When IPv4 was developed, security was not a primary consideration, so things like IPSec were included as optional elements. In IPv6 IPSec is mandatory, so each individual data packet is encrypted and authenticated.
Most of the PCs, IP-enabled devices, and network hardware sold over the past few years has included IPv6 technology--at least as an option. Unless you’re still using hardware and software from 5 years ago or more, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that you’re already set to take advantage of IPv6.
If your hardware and software isn’t compatible with IPv6, though, don’t fret. IPv6 is backwards compatible with IPv4, and the Internet will continue running both in parallel for some time. You don’t need to run out and get IPv6 equipment this week, but you should definitely make sure any future purchases are ready to work with IPv6.