What will you be doing on IPv6 day!?!
Every internet connected device needs an IP address. Well, the old standard (like 188.8.131.52) had ‘only’ 4,294,967,296 possible addresses. I’m sure that standard made sense when it was described in 1980 when 4 billion was about the population of the entire world desktop computers were an oddity. I know most of us then (the 4 billion of us that didn’t exist then) couldn’t imagine that the growth of the internet would include a desktop, laptop, smart phone and so many other types of devices for so much of the world population. And with the growth of the world population to nearly 7 billion, and the rise of the global middle class, well, 4 billion possible IP addresses is nothing.
Enter IPv6. It makes IPv4 look like and Edsel. The new protocol has 340 undecillion possible addresses because it’s 8 groups of 4. With that many addresses every person living in 2050 (if there are 10 billion) could have 8 octillion devices, each with their own address. Or look at this way: there could be a trillion networks with a trillion devices each. Every star in the Milkyway galaxy could have a network of 10 trillion devices. If IPv4 was a golf ball, IPv6 would be the sun.
Well, the Sanger Institute (you knew I’d get to the biology part of this) is celebrating World IPv6 day! Tomorrow! Along with over 300 other institutions around the world:
From 1am UK time (00.00 UTC) to 1am (UK) on Thursday morning, alongside Facebook, Google, Cisco, Yahoo, Sony, universities and many US Government departments, the Sanger Institute will open its websites to visitors using two methods of delivery: the current standard of IPv4 and the future standard of IPv6.
It’s a global test of the new system.
To uncover any problems that might occur with a switch to IPv6, and to create an event to drive forward the change, the Internet Society is coordinating a global experiment. The society – a charity dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet – is using this day-long event to create a common focus to bring together all stakeholders in the internet to resolve any issues: from governments and universities, to internet service providers, operating system suppliers and hardware manufacturers. To support the day, the Sanger Institute has been building IPv6 capacity into its systems for some time and it is keen to help drive the change.
Y2k all over again!!?!?! Run for the hills.
There aren’t many huge effects, most people won’t notice much at all (from the World IPv6 day site FAQ):
The vast majority of users should be able to access services as usual, but in rare cases, misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, particularly in home networks, may impair access to participating websites during the trial. Current estimates are that 0.05% of users may experience such problems, but participating organizations will be working together with operating system manufacturers, home router vendors and ISPs to minimize the number of users affected. Participants will also be working together to provide tools to detect problems and offer suggested fixes in advance of the trial.
Hmm, there are about 1,6 billion internet users, so about 800 thousand might experience problems. Knowing my luck, I’ll be one of them (because I never win a lottery, my luck is opposite).
The Sanger Institute wants you to know there will be little effect also:
The Institute’s participation in the global internet ‘test flight’ does come with a small risk of disruption during the day for researchers accessing the Sanger Institute’s data. “We expect that almost all users will experience no difference on World IPv6 Day and will be able to use our sites and services without problems. After 24 hours we will stop advertising our websites via both addresses and will assess the impact it had in affecting researchers’ ability to access our data,” explains Jon Nicholson.
I’ll go out on a limb and say I suspect we won’t run out of possible addresses 30 years from now. In fact, I’ll put out an invitation to any alien civilizations that want to connect, we’ve got some addresses to spare.