IP version 6: the next generation of the Internet

By Kevin Railsback, InfoWorld |  Networking

For the true power and possibilities of IPv6 to be realized, it needs to gain widespread acceptance and deployment, and not just from first-tier Internet backbone providers. Every ISP, corporation, and network provider needs to fully support IPv6 before we can enjoy all the benefits. Of course, most all of the network infrastructure products (routers, switches, firewalls, etc.) that are being shipped today support IPv6. But in most implementations, IPv4 is still being used without IPv6 support even being enabled.

There are workarounds to this that allow companies to deploy a full-featured IPv6 corporate network while maintaining IPv4 connectivity to the outside world. In this scenario, a NAT-like router handles the conversion between protocol standards so that end users inside the network have full transparent access to the Internet while using IPv6 exclusively in-house. Today deployments of this type are still in the vast minority.

One industry that stands to benefit greatly from the move to IPv6 is the wireless handheld and Internet-enabled phone providers. Fortunately, using the abovee-mentioned translation techniques, these companies can roll out IPv6 enabled handhelds and phones with all of the benefits associated with them, while still maintaining full compatibility with the existing Internet. With the explosion of wireless Internet access options, I hope this trend will help to push along the IPv6 standard.

But don't hold your breath. The expense of moving to IPv6 is still great, and most IT directors and CTOs are hard-pressed to justify the expenditure for true IPv6 deployments at this stage in the game. Eventually, the array of services that don't work well through NAT, such as video conferencing and real-time collaboration, will help to push bleeding-edge companies into the IPv6 space. As always happens with standards such as this, once a wide enough base of implementations exists, the movement will start to snowball; and we'll finally see widespread IPv6 adoption.

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