Beyond IPv4: Addressing for the future

Addressing the internet

Internet Protocol (IP) is the foundation that allows interconnected devices to communicate and transmit data across the internet. Similar to a telephone number, a connected device requires a unique IP address to ensure proper routing of information.

There are two versions of the Internet Protocol in use today – IPv4 and IPv6. Due to its global adoption in 1981, IPv4 remains the most commonly used address protocol and the backbone of business network infrastructure. Its successor, IPv6, was developed to address the rapid growth of the internet and the need for more IP addresses.

With the explosion of internet-connected devices (e.g., mobile phones, cars, smart TVs, and appliances), it was predicted that the IPv4 address space would soon be exhausted and so, IPv6 was born.

Year Deployed:19812012
Address Size:32-bit number128-bit number

Address Format:

Dotted Decimal:

Address Combinations:~4.3 Billion

~340 Undecillion
463,374,607,431, 768,211,456)

What are some examples of IPv6 usage?

In 2008, the number of devices connected to the internet exceeded the global population. This growth is primarily due to the Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine a modern-day connected home with phones and tablets for the entire family, smart appliances, alarms and other devices, easily consuming a dozen IP addresses or more. With IPv6 adoption stemming mainly from mobile devices, IPv4 is still the foundation for the majority of the business done on the internet.

The persistence of IPv4

  • In addition, while complicated in itself, IPv4 is far simpler for Network Technicians to administer than IPv6.
  • Another big reason for slower IPv6 adoption is Network Address Translation (NAT), which allows companies to create private Local Area Networks (LAN) to provide their employees with an unlimited number of private IP addresses that reside and operate behind a single wide area network (WAN) IPv4 IP address.
  • NAT is one of the biggest reasons IPv4 is still the defacto standard when it comes to corporate networks.
  • Given that 1.2 billion IP addresses (37.4%) in the IPv4 space are in use within the United States, there is also less pressure by US-based companies to push for a switch to IPv6.

Will IPv6 replace IPv4?

In many cases, the best course of action is to upgrade to a dual stack network in which all of a network’s nodes are both IPv4 and IPv6 enabled. This is especially important at the router, which is typically the first internal node to receive traffic from outside the network.

Many experts believe that the ultimate cure for IPv6 adoption is time. With aging network infrastructure and demand for scalability, the imminent implementation of IPv6 compatibility will provide more address space and serve growing global connectivity.

The short answer is “no.” The long (and super nerdy) answer includes many reasons for slow IPv6 adoption, such as requiring immense effort with little or no economic incentive for organizations to upgrade costly and complex hardware and software to support IPv6.

[Originally published on]