Historical Perspective

As you can see from this early projection, IPv6 deployment is well behind it’s original intended schedule.

IPv4 Problems

IPv4 (the protocol used by most systems today) was developed almost 40 years ago (1970s) in a time when the perceived need for a global network was limited to a handful of large systems owned by governments, research institutions, and a handful of commercial contractors working with those entities. Today’s commercial internet was not even regarded as a possibility in the early years of IPv4 design.  As a result, IPv4’s ability to address fewer than 4 billion unique hosts was regarded as a vast, nearly infinite resource which would never be exhausted.

In 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications released a game-changing technology which would forever alter the internet. Dubbed “Mosaic”, this first World Wide Web Browser began revolutionary changes that took the internet from a research project well known among academics to a major economic infrastructure in just over 5 years.

In 1994, showing admirable foresight with just under 1/2 of all IPv4 addresses allocated or assigned, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) began work on a next-generation internet technology.

Actual Global Progress as of 1/16/2010

The first IPv6 protocol standards started to emerge in 1998, defining a vastly larger address space (enough to number virtually every molecule in the known universe) and several improved features.

Initial IPv4 runout projections

You may have heard some of the initial projections that IPv4 would run out between 2000 and 2008. These projections were not as wrong as they now seem. Rather, IPv4 technology also evolved at the same time. The primary change was the introduction of Network Address Translation (NAT). Prior to NAT, every host needed a unique global address. With NAT, most hosts that did not need to provide services could share a single globally unique address with many other hosts. About the same time, economic conditions seriously slowed the growth rate of the internet. These two factors bought the internet community (roughly) an additional 10 years to develop and deploy IPv6.

IPv4 runout is now projected to start in 2011 with most regional registries running out of free pool resources between 2012 and 2013.

Next: The need for Change


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