It was in 2015 that the wide usage of IP addresses became relevant because we had run out of them. Richard Jimmerson, CIO, American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), told CBS News that they were just weeks away from reaching 0 addresses. ARIN, responsible for registering and providing IP addresses, had only 130,000 IP addresses remaining then. Comcast, an ISP provider that bought millions of them at a time, didn’t find 130,000 a satisfying number.
So what exactly is this Internet Protocol (IP) address? We ask. Every electronic device, server, and webpage connected currently has a string of unique numbers and dots. Suppose a user connects to the internet and wants to browse certain information, his device will send the request along with its IP address to a server. The server will then identify the user’s IP address and request, and respond with the IP address for the requested information. Currently, there is a combination of IPv4 and IPv6 internet protocols in use.
IPv4 was initially established by the internet providers on an experimentation basis, but as internet grew, it escaped the laboratory. Internet explosion meant that IPv4 protocol wasn’t enough to deal with the information shared and the new devices’ adoption. Thereon, internet scientists started working on IPv6 in the early 1990s, which was better and provided a greater number of addresses.
IPv4 is a 32-bit address space that limited the number of unique hosts to 2^32 (4,294,967,296), and IPv6 is 128-bit address space with a number of hosts equal to 2^128 (3.4*10^38). With IPv6, we have close to 340 trillion trillion trillion brand new IP addresses available to be utilized. Currently, the complete internet infrastructure is working in tandem, using both IPv4 and IPv6.
IPv6, along with its address, offers many benefits such as handle packets more efficiently, improve performance, and increase security. It even enables internet service providers to reduce the size of routing tables by making them more hierarchical.
So, have the complete internet infrastructure or businesses adopted IPv6? The answer is—it’s being delayed due to Network Address Translation (NAT). NAT functions as a translator, converting private IP addresses to public IP addresses. Thus, a corporate machine having a private IP address can send and receive packets from machines located outside their private network, even the ones having public IP addresses. Businesses with thousands of computers would need enormous quantities of public IPv4 addresses, which are already nearing their end.
Carrier networks and ISPs were initially the adopters of IPv6, which, together with mobile network providers, are leading the change. According to the World IPv6 launch, T-Mobile USA has more than 90% of its traffic going over IPv6, with Verizon Wireless at 82.25%, Comcast at 63%, and AT&T at 65%. Major websites will also be following suit soon, with 30% of the top 1,000 websites on Alexa currently reachable over IPv6.
Why is it imperative for businesses to look for providers that support IPv6?
- IPv6-enabled hosted applications provide improvement in performance when it comes to devices accessing the network through the IPv6 protocol. Businesses need to question their providers, whether they support IPv6 or not. Many times the provider needs to be told that their business needs an IPv6 solution so that the provider can enable it.
- IPv6 facilitates end-to-end encryption for data transfer. It offers encryption and integrity-checking, which is presently being offered in the VPN. The encryption solution can be made available to devices and systems that support IPv6 and for all connections. With the usage of IPv6, even man-in-the-middle type of attacks will reduce significantly, as it actually becomes more challenging to masquerade the websites.
- Scalability is another big challenge that can be solved with IPv6. According to a report by Gartner, there are close to 25 billion devices that will be connected to the internet by 2020. So if we consider the number of devices connected to the Internet and the current capabilities of IPv6, we have a complete solution for connecting each of our devices using a unique address. Most of the IoT products are connected over TCP/IP.
How cloud providers are shifting to IPv6?
AWS provides IPv6 capabilities in its public cloud IaaS service offering. It gives access to IPv4/IPv6 web-tier application load balancer and CloudFront distributor along with the IPv6 capable web application firewall. The cloud service providers enable simple storage service object-storage service. IPv6 works for VPC routing, security groups, network access control lists, and VPC flow logs.
Before businesses try accessing S3 bucket using the IPv6, they must ensure that any IAM user or S3 bucket policies being used for IP address filtering are well updated IPv6 address ranges. AWS, for many years, has been supporting its Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) service through distribution of application traffic across multiple AWS virtual servers, supporting an increase in performance, fault tolerance, elasticity, and security.
- Google Cloud
Google Cloud supports the IPv6 with TCP proxy load balancing, HTTPs, and SSL proxy. The load balancer accepts IPv6 connections from other users and then proxies them directly to those connections for instances. Businesses can handle IPv6 requests from other users and proxy them over IPv4 to other backends. Using single anycast IPv6 address for multiple region deployment helps load balancing for application instance running across multiple regions. It means that the DNS server has a single AAAA record, which will nullify the need for multiple IPv6 addresses.
Overflow occurs across regions with a single IPv6 load balancer address. If one region is out of resources, the global load balancer will automate the direct requests from users to the closest resource available. Run a dual-stack to serve both IPv4 and IPv6 to create 2 load balancer IP resources, one for IPv6 and the other for IPv4.
- Microsoft Azure
IPv6 for Azure Virtual Network (VNet) enables businesses to host their applications in Azure cloud using both IPv4 and IPv6 together within the virtual network and across the internet. Dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 connectivity enables Azure-hosted services to traverse this technology gap with other globally available and dual-stacked services.
The company is even planning to add IPv6 support more to azure networking features over time and then to other dual stack versions of Azure PaaS. Businesses can access Azure PaaS services via the IPv4 endpoints on a dual-stack virtual machine.
Though complete IPv6 adoption is still miles away with the internet providers already shifting their basic infrastructure to suit the development. The challenge will be the legacy systems that need a translator in the middle to manage protocol connection. And with a device, it’s set to become complicated.
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