The Internet is soon going to run out of IP addresses - those strings of numbers so difficult to remember that we have to think up catchy web addresses and URLs to help us navigate the web. Way back in the 1970s, it seemed that the 4.3 billion addresses provided by the IPv4 protocol would be enough for all time. Yeah right - due to the proliferation of cellphones, iPods, TV boxes, routers and other gizmos, they're expected to sell out sometime shortly after 2012.
Widely used techniques which as subnetting, CIDR and network address translation allows large organizations to use duplicate addresses within their own networks, but the increasing scarcity of addresses and complexity of network configuration required will inevitably lead to the widespread adoption of IPv6 -which provides 4.3billion addresses each - that is, per person, on the planet. Should be enough for the forseeable future, but we've heard that before.
(In case you're wondering, IPv5 was an experimental version of the Internet protocol that never saw public usage).
Any project manager developing Internet-connected products needs to consider the following -
- Support for IPv4 and IPv6 addresses
- Support for IPv6 address format - Eight groups of four digits vs. four groups of four for IPv4
- Support for multiple IPv6 addresses per device
- Domain name Representations using quad-A (AAAA) records
Also, the sheer number of addresses available means that they can get embedded into items previously unconsidered as being "net-worthy" - remote controls, cars, carkeys, bikes, jackets, lawnmowers......
The larger packet size in IPv6 will allow for faster downloads - but the application will have to know that in advance. Knowing what is and what isn't IPv6-capable will become increasingly important.