IPv6 is intended to supplement and eventually replace the IPv4 protocol most Internet services use to transact on the Internet today.

The era of IPv4 draws to a close

Every device on the computer network is assigned an IP address, which is a numerical address that is its identity and forms the basis of Internet communication. The current protocol IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses, which limits the IP address space to approximately 4.3 billion possible unique addresses. While this number seemed sufficient at the time that IPv4 was developed in the early 1980s, it became apparent that this would be insufficient to accommodate continuing, exponential Internet use and expansion. Today there are over a billion Internet users and literally billions of Internet-connected devices. In 2013, it is projected that there will be approximately 1 trillion devices connected to the Internet

In early 2011, the clock finally reached zero with the last available IPv4 addresses within the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) pool being allocated. While the Regional Internet Registries (RIR s) to whom IANA allocates IP addresses, which in turn provide them to ISPs, still have IPv4 addresses in their inventory, no “new” IPv4 addresses can be created. APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre), the regional Internet registry for Asia-Pacific was the first to announce in mid April 2011 that it had reached the last block of addresses in its available pool.

IPv6 – powering the next generation Internet

IPv6 solves the problem of IPv4 address saturation by using 128-bit addressing, creating a massively larger number of IP addresses – ‘340 trillion trillion trillion’ – widely believed to be more than the Internet will need for decades, even by the most ambitious growth projections

The Internet is in transition

Throughout the Internet, access and infrastructure providers, service operators and content providers are ramping up preparedness for the deployment of IPv6. On 8 June, 2011 designated as World IPv6 Day, IPv6 will make its test debut for 24 hours.

In India, the Government of India (GOI) is leading the effort of transitioning to IPv6 through the formation an IPv6 Task Force in Public Private Partnership (PPP). India only has 18.5 million4 IPv4 addresses for a population of 1.2 billion5 in India.

The formation of the task force and the deployment roadmap was approved by the GOI in July 2010. Actionable points of the roadmap include that all major service providers will target to handle IPv6 traffic and offer IPv6 services by December, 2011 while all central and state government ministries and departments shall plan to start using IPv6 services by March 2012.

The future is IPv6

The successful transition to IPv6 desires that all Internet stakeholders work together to support and develop IPv6 capabilities. Working together, we can make 2011 an historic year for ensuring the stability, security and growth of the Internet.

The new Internet is here, as IPv6 prepares to make its debut after almost two decades in preparation.

The author is Manish Dalal, Vice President APAC, Verisign. Views are personal)