The Internet Society is organizing something called “IPv6 Launch Day,” to be held on June 6, 2012, in which major Internet service providers, home networking equipment manufacturers and web companies around the world are coming together to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services. The event builds on last year's World IPv6 Day event, held on June 8th, and is intended to continue to build awareness for the new, expanded Internet addressing system.
According to its organizers, “World IPv6 Launch will mark the largest industry commitment to and deployment of IPv6 in the history of the Internet, with ISPs, home networking equipment manufacturers and web companies around the world permanently enabling IPv6 within their products and services.”
IPv6 is replacing the current Internet Protocol, IPv4. This original Internet numbering system — which assigns addresses such as 192.168.1.1 — has run out of numbers. IPv4 is a 32-bit system with four billion possible combinations, which may sound like a lot of numbers, but is no where near enough for all the computers and devices now hooked up to the Internet. IPv6, with 128-bit addressing space, enables a mathematically limitless amount of numbers – more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses, to be exact. This will help continue the movement “to connect the billions of people not connected today, allow a huge range of devices to connect directly with one another, and help ensure the Internet can continue its current growth rate indefinitely.” The newer protocol will also enable greater capabilities within cloud computing.
What does this mean to insurance companies' systems? Not too much, and don't lose too much sleep over the matter. Industry planners have been aware of this since the 1990s. Most hardware and software – especially large enterprise systems, such as mainframes or Unix – has been ready for IPv6 for some time. Still, it's advisable for companies with a large amount of configurations to check out their devices. As one expert put it: “We can’t actually get an IPv6 host and an IPv4 server to talk to each other, because the IPv4 server only knows 32 bits. It’s much like if your telephone was set up to only ever dial seven digits, and it wouldn’t let you dial 10. Sure you could almost have a conversation, but you couldn’t call most of the world.”
As the organizers of the IPv6 launch warn: “As IPv4 addresses become increasingly scarce, every segment of the industry must act quickly to accelerate full IPv6 adoption or risk increased costs and limited functionality online for Internet users everywhere.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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