The Internet Protocol (IP) is one of the most fundamental technologies used to permit computers to communicate on the internet and within private intranets. Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was originally developed approximately thirty years ago and has begun to show its age with the explosion of the internet for commercial use within the past fifteen years.
Each IP address represents a machine on the internet. IPv4 addresses are in “dotted decimal format,” e.g., 126.96.36.199. The newest production version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, was developed in the late 1990s but has seen slow adoption due to various technologies deployed to extend the life of IPv4. IPv6 addresses contain eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, each group separated by a colon; e.g., 2605:0100:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0010.
Need for IPv6
In January 2011, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocated the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). This historic moment solidified the ultimate exhaustion of IPv4 space, which had been predicted numerous times. Although the five RIRs have some IPv4 addresses available to hand out to new customers, the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) indicated that it was down to the last available block of IPv4 addresses in April of 2011.
Although the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) still has IPv4 addresses available, people in other parts of the world will eventually no longer be able to receive an IPv4 address. They will be forced to migrate to IPv6. As this happens, it will become increasingly important for an organization to have an IPv6 web presence to be globally reachable.
Communication Technologies within the Office of Information Technology is currently testing IPv6 in a controlled lab environment and is developing plans for the campus-wide deployment of IPv6. North Carolina State University will ultimately leverage IPv6 as a tool to facilitate education, research, and extension initiatives across the State of North Carolina and beyond.
North Carolina State University was one of the first ten universities worldwide to agree to participate in World IPv6 Day and is the first university to agree to participate within the State of North Carolina. NC State’s early participant status in World IPv6 Day is another example of its strong worldwide leadership role in technology and education.