IPv6 And You
World IPv6 Day has come and gone, and thanks to ENA, you’re still online! But if you’re also still wondering what IPv6 is, read on.
In order to communicate to each other, Internet-connected devices need Internet Protocol addresses. They’re like the phone numbers of the Internet. The current version of the Internet Protocol is IPv4. IPv4 has been around for over 20 years and allows for approximately 4 billion publicly addressable devices. It sounds like a lot, but in fact, 4 billion is not enough. With the explosion of PDAs, softphones and other Internet-connected devices, in combination with exponentially growing Internet usage by more and more people around the world, we’re running out of IPv4 addresses. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned the last free network pools to the regional registries in January 2011. The Asia-Pacific registry exhausted their allocation by April of 2011, so in some parts of the world there are no more IPv4 addresses available.
IPv6’s 128-bit address structure
IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) is the next-generation Internet Protocol that has been designated to replace IPv4. IPv6 is most widely known for its 128-bit address structure, which means there are 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 (2128) IP addresses, but IPv6 also differs from IPv4 in a number of other ways, including improved routing efficiencies and security enhancements.
You’ll need both old IPv4 and new IPv6 access
What does this mean for schools and libraries? First and foremost, it does not mean the IPv4 Internet will cease to exist. Indeed, IPv4 will continue to work as it always has, and for many years to come, perhaps for a decade, there will be IPv4-only sites and devices somewhere on the Internet with which schools and their students wish to communicate. It does mean, however, that over the next few years schools and libraries will need to begin to be able to provide both IPv4 and IPv6 access to the Internet. Already, there is content on the Internet that is only reachable via IPv6. (Try going to http://ipv6.google.com. Unless you have an IPv6-capable LAN and service provider, you won’t get there). And at some point in the future, you will need new IP addresses, either to account for growth, a new on-line service or a new building, and the only IP addresses available will be IPv6.
ENA will make the transition to IPv6 as easy as possible
As a managed service provider whose purpose is to meet and exceed the needs of schools and libraries, ENA is dedicated to making the transition from an IPv4 Internet to an IPv4+IPv6 Internet as seamless and easy as possible. We are currently lab testing the IPv6 capabilities of a number of core components of our network backbone infrastructure, including DNS servers, e-mail servers, Ethernet switches, aggregation, backbone and peer routers, content filtering devices and firewalls. We are also testing interoperability of our IPv6 design with the IPv6 stacks of all the major operating systems, including those from Apple, Microsoft, and various Linux and BSD distributions.
We’re already preparing for IPv6
ENA already peers via IPv6 with a number of other IPv6-capable nation- and world-wide networks, and we already have significant IPv6 address space allocations from ARIN (the American Registry of Internet Numbers). The ENA backbone is completely “dual stack” IPv4- and IPv6-capable, and the majority of our core services are configured to handle both IPv4 and IPv6, including DNS hosting and resolution, e-mail, hosted firewall and content filtering, among others. Finally, we are investigating various architectures that will enable us to provide IPv4-to-IPv6 brokering services. These services will make it possible for IPv4-only clients to communicate with certain websites and other Internet-connected devices that only support IPv6, and vice versa.
We’ll help you through it
In addition to IPv6 research, development and implementation, ENA will also work hand-in-hand with schools and libraries as they investigate rolling out IPv6 to their own Wide and Local Area Networks.