An IP address is simply the "phone number" of a device on the Internet or a local network. The traditional scheme, called IPv4, is four numbers separated by periods. For instance, the IP address of www.telware.com is 126.96.36.199. There's just one problem; the scheme doesn't provide enough addresses, and the world is running out. It's not just computers that have their own addresses, but Internet-based telecommunication devices and sometimes even thermostats and refrigerators. To solve the address shortage, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) devised IPv6, an addressing scheme which allows many more addresses — so many it would take a 39-digit number to tell you.
IPv6: The Way of the Future
Getting to IPv6 isn't always easy, though. You can get an IPv6 address — in fact, if you have an IPv4 address, you automatically have one. The problem is that until everyone who needs to communicate with you can use IPv6, you need to keep the IPv4 address and can't take full advantage of the larger range. Eventually we'll reach the point where you just can't use the whole Internet without IPv6 capability, but this is a long way off.
Shortcomings of NAT
Meanwhile, people are using tricks to deal with the shortage of addresses. Network Address Translation (NAT) allows a device to have one address behind a router and a different address on the Internet. This lets multiple devices share a pool of public addresses, but it can cause problems. Each device can't permanently hold on to a unique address, and this can cause confusion. IPv6 doesn't need or use NAT.
The best solution is dual-stack devices, which understand both kinds of addresses, working with IPv6 when it's available and falling back on IPv4 when it isn't.
The Big Switch
Major providers, such as Comcast and BT, are moving over to IPv6. As they switch over, it will be necessary for customers to use routers that support it. Devices on a local network can still use IPv4, but they'll gain the benefit of unique, NAT-free addresses if they can switch over as well. It may be necessary to update or replace older operating systems and devices to let them communicate with IPv6.
Are you ready for IPv6?
For information about how to transition to IPv6, contact TelWare at 1-800-637-3148 or firstname.lastname@example.org. TelWare is a national leader in the installation of voice, video, data and unified communication solutions. TelWare is an authorized Avaya, Star2Star and SimpleWAN dealer.