Some 200 technology companies including Akamai, Facebook, and Google will make the switch to IPv6 during the World IPv6 Day trial for 24 hours June 8. The test is intended to see how ready technology companies are to handle IPv6 addresses as well as what to expect when Websites are obliged to enable IPv6 in the future. There could be glitches Wednesday, but the Internet Society (ISOC) estimates that 99.95 percent of all users worldwide will not notice anything at all this Wednesday.
However, despite the larges investments in time and money these major companies are making for the World IPv6 Day trial, there is nothing small businesses need to worry about Wednesday. In fact, unless you are hosting your own Web servers, a small business has nothing to do to prepare for the when IPv4 addresses are expected to be depleted next year, either.
Already, recently produced routers support IPv6. Windows XP, Vista, 7, and upcoming Windows 8, as well as major Linux distributions including Red Hat and Ubuntu, are IPv6-ready. All ISPs eventually will eventually have to support IPv6 addresses as well.
But even if your network equipment or OS does not support IPv6, you will still not notice anything June 8 or in the future. Small businesses can also continue using IPv4 addresses indefinitely since it will not be in the interest of a Website owner to lock anyone out who continues to use an IPv4 connection. In fact, since IPv6 addresses are incompatible with IPv4 addresses, and vice-versa, it will be necessary to support IPv4 until there are no users left that use the protocol.
In my case, my ISP provider is Vodafone subsidiary SFR, a France-based provider that--besides its lousy service and obnoxious TV commercials--does not offer IPv6-only connectivity unless you sign up for its beta program and invest in one of its newer routers.
Since I am not participating in SFR's IPv6 beta program, my connection fails the IPv6 connectivity test. However, the test also indicates that I will almost certainly not experience Internet-connection problems on June 8, since Websites, including those participating in the World IPv6 test, will still remain compatible with IPv4 addresses.
When you do start seeing IPv6 addressees show up in the future, the first thing you will notice is the length of their addressable space. The ISOC offers this address as an example: 2001:db8:1f70:999:de8:7648:6e8.
Without going into the nitty-gritty about security, you will no longer have to worry about NAT devices with IPv6 if you make the switch. IPsec is mandated as well, which is only optional in IPv4 and offers an extra element of security.
The key difference is that the longer spaces that IPv6 offers means that trillions and trillions of the addresses will be available in the future. It is thus safe to safe that IPv6 addresses will be available beyond your grandchildren's lifetimes, when none of this will matter anyway.
Bruce covers tech trends in the United States and Europe and can be reached through his Website at www.brucegain.com.