The Internet Is Full. Sort of.


Our daily lives are punctuated by it, modern businesses depend on it; the average person born within the last 20 years has never known a world without the Internet. Realistically it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Internet is about to reach its full capacity; many have known this for a while.  Yet, when the Internet Address and Naming Agency announced a few weeks ago, that the last seven blocks of addresses would be distributed in February 2011, many were shocked. Naturally, for some in this hand-to-mouth technological age, it’s just a case of, “Sorry—bus is full, another one will be along shortly.” Perhaps so, but for thousands of businesses the world over, this will be a harsh and unforgiving financial lesson in complacency.

Many businesses built on IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4)—the last version of the Internet the world has been running on for the last four decades—have been aware of the emergence of IPv6 for the last ten years but failed to see the urgency to upgrade. This may have rung true for the first few years, but change is unavoidable; delaying the inevitable past the point of profitability starts to do more harm than good. IPv6 is currently unreadable by thousands of devices designed only for IPv4; the resulting impact will cost businesses thousands of dollars in replacing hardware that will be rendered useless within the next few years. As a consequence, our inability to successfully dispose of hardware waste is about to quadruple on a global scale.

As ugly as it is to imagine and realize that there are hundreds of small, local businesses still running on MS-DOS this side of the millennium, economics and technology are co-dependents for growth.  It only takes the average business owner to consider the approximate profit Apple reaped with the exponential growth of the iPod and it’s evolutionary offspring. Not wishing to fail, major corporations won’t think twice to dig deep to fund the conversion. Many businesses will still risk being prudent and seek to perform difficult reconfiguration procedures to enable old hardware to support IPv6. This further delay will only be of benefit for as long as it takes the cost of new hardware to decrease. Depending on whom you speak to of course; the old mind Vs new mind debate centres on the fact that the ISP have been performing sleight-of-hand tricks between IPv6 and v4 for a while. The fact that the ISP have thus far, successfully used these strategies in the shadow of change, comforts many into believing there is little need for conversion or redevelopment at this stage. Of course, there is the school of thought that those strategies will become more redundant as change brings more sophisticated software to the helm, at which point the question will be whether or not time-poor strategizing will be the most cost effective option.


1 comment
  1. Daniel K said:

    You’re right to point this out. I can see the need to convert to IPv6 being a major issue for companies, well beyond the trumped up Y2K craze. But unlike Y2K, there won’t be a single switch on/off moment – people will have to judge for themselves when they absolutely need to convert.

    But I think the main problem is ignorance, and I’ll readily admit my own: what are the issues to be addressed (no pun intended)? A business may not face a problem, or be able to do much about it, until the day they need to support both protocols, and then what? I think that’s when the proverbial doo-doo will hit the fan as people try to work against IPv6 in a predominantly IPv4 world, with software and hardware unable to support both. New devices won’t be as affected, or shouldn’t be.

    Closer to home, I know my computers are not running software that was built to work with IPv6, or at least if they are I have absolutely no clue how, or, more importantly, how to configure them.

    So we may be running out of numbers for IPv4, but I think it will be a while longer before most of us will be faced with having to worry about it. We just don’t know how long.

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