The so-called Y2K bug was meant to result in problems for both digital and analogue documentation and data storage, because of the practice of abbreviating the four-digit year to two digits. Rolling over from xx99 to xx00 was tipped to cause widespread systems confusion and failure.
Companies and organisations worldwide upgraded their computer systems. Yet at the stroke of midnight, 1 January 2000, almost everything stayed exactly the same. There was no global meltdown, and very few system crashes.
There is something similar happening, I believe, around IPv4 address exhaustion. Some are calling it the end of the internet, implying that time is running out and that the internet will implode.
The truth is that very little will actually change. While it is true that IPv4 addresses are running out, the switchover to IPv6 addresses is happening slowly and gradually, over a period of years, with IPv4 and IPv6 addresses operating together for some time.
The IT industry has known for years that eventually the IPv4 address stock would be exhausted, but misreporting around the announcement that the last blocks of IPv4 addresses are being allocated has created a sense that the end is nigh, or similar.
The switchover to IPv6 will, however, provide some benefits. For example, IPv6 promises enhanced security. With IPSec already built in, any new devices added to a network operating on an IPv6 address will be behind a firewall automatically, without any need for translation.
It is for this reason that the Department of Defence and university JANET networks already use IPv6 networking.
Also, because of the increased number of IPv6 addresses, every device will be able to have their own IP address and secure connection to the internet.
We will start to see, I believe, more home management systems allowing people to control their thermostats and light switches from mobile devices.
Many individual devices can have their own IP addresses – if there are more IP addresses to choose from.
For instance, I have heard that one Tokyo taxi company has installed detectors on the wipers in individual taxis. When the windscreen wipers are turned on, the detectors send a message to the despatch office. The company can then dispatch more taxis to that area in the hope that more pedestrians will want to catch a cab to get out of the rain.
Channel players can analyse customers' hardware to ensure it is IPv4 and IPv6 compliant, and advise on what to do if it is not. I also think that IT managers will need to speak to their ISPs about what to do as IPv6 address availability launches publicly in the UK.
But the move from IPv4 is a gradual evolution rather than a revolution.
Melvyn Wray is senior vice president for product marketing at Allied Telesis
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