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Over recent weeks the media has been getting very excited around the fact that we (in this case that means the world) is running out of IP addresses.

What is an IP address?

An IP address is a unique ID given to every device that is connected to the Internet. This means computers, routers, phones, etc. An example of a current (referred to as IPv4) address is 84.18.207.4.

What happens when we run out?

There will not be an instant impact, the internet will not stop working! 🙂 IP addresses are finite, currently  IP addresses are assigned from a central source, to local registries around the world, who in turn allocate these to end users. The final large blocks of IPv4 space have now been allocated to these registries, so there will be free IPv4 addresses, but once these are allocated to end users there will be no more. Many ISPs also have space left in their existing ranges e.g. catalyst2 still have plenty left for any new servers we add to our network etc.

The problem really comes when these addresses are used in the near future, and as large countries such as China have more widespread use of the internet, the demand for these IP addresses will grow. Therefore we need a new range of IP’s to support the internet’s future growth.

Where do these new IPv6 addresses come from?

They come from a new way of addressing, called IPv6. Rather than being 32bit addresses, as with IPv4 (with 4,294,967,296 unique addresses), IPv6 addresses are 128bit creating many more addresses. The new system will generate trillions of trillions of addresses, 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 to be exact! In essence this means that every person in the world could have a 50 thousand trillion trillion addresses  without any problem.

Do I need to do anything?

Nope, it will just happen. Your Internet provider will eventually sort everything out at their end our network has been capable of this new addressing system for the last 6 years. We can already allocated IPv6 addresses to our dedicated servers and if required some shared hosting accounts.

When are you actually likely to see this happening?

The first time you are likely to see people testing IPv6 on a major scale is June 8th 2011. The likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo and catalyst2 will be offering v6 for the day to test everything. It is currently estimated that 95.95% of people will see no difference but a tiny percentage of people may experience due to old / incorrectly configured equipment.

Any questions, just let us know.