You've probably heard of IPv6 by now if you're watching Internet technology at all, but even with new urgency to its deployment, there aren't many people saying much about it. There's a big problem with that.
Over a decade ago, Internet architects realized that the current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) used for identifying systems on the Internet was limited. With the massive expansion of the Internet in the 1990s, the number of addresses available would simply run out in the not-too-distant future. To deal with this problem, they developed and standardized a replacement known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)... in 1998. Where IPv4 provided 32-bit addresses, which amount to 2^32 or about 4.3 billion unique numbers, IPv6 was designed with 128-bit addresses, or about 340 undecillion (that's 36 zeroes) unique numbers.
The problem? IPv6 was seen as unnecessary by the vast majority of the network operators at the time. A relatively small portion of the IPv4 address space was allocated in 1998 and there was a lot of reserved address space that could still be used if needed, so there was almost no movement whatsoever on implementing IPv6. This trend continued through the early 2000s. Organizations like the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and American Registry for Internet Numbers, the institutions responsible for keeping track of assignments of IP addresses, had run the numbers and projected that less than a decade remained before the IPv4 space would fill up. They began programs to try to educate network operators accordingly. With few using IPv6, software developers saw little benefit in IPv6 implementation, so IPv4-only software continued to be prevalent.
Years passed with little change until very recently. In the past few years, an increasing number of software vendors and network operators have gotten the message. Many providers began to investigate IPv6 internally and some started upgrading their infrastructure to support IPv6. Most operating systems and a lot of open source software by this time included IPv6 support, but few ISPs provided access via IPv6, so it went relatively unused and untested.
The most urgency began this year. It was reported in August 2010 that IANA had only 14 top level IPv4 allocations remaining, then 12 in October, and 7 in November. The IANA policy automatically distributes one allocation to each of the five world regions once only five allocations remain. This means there are only two allocations IANA has left to give out before the rest get allocated automatically. At that point, the regional organizations that manage usage, such as ARIN, will have no way to obtain new allocations as they deplete what they have left. Eventually it will become very hard to obtain IPv4 addresses. This event is projected by many to occur during 2011.
Wide deployment at this stage is largely expected to be a scramble to get software and hardware in compliance as soon as organizations discover they can no longer obtain IPv4 addresses or can only do so at a premium. Statistics aggregated by Hurricane Electric indicate that as of today only 8% of networks implement any form of IPv6 connectivity, and 17% of top level domain providers lack infrastructure available via IPv6.
Steadfast Networks recognizes that in order to ensure our customers are ready for the day IPv4 ceases to be sustainable, we must make IPv6 connectivity available to all our customers. We would be misrepresenting ourselves to say we are an early adopter or pioneer, because a few started all the way back in the late 1990s. We began serious planning for IPv6 approximately 2 years ago, and began offering IPv6 to customers in March of 2009. We set a goal to ensure that basic IPv6 connectivity would be extended by default to all dedicated server customers by Q1 of 2011 and we're delivering on that goal today.
We've published a knowledgebase article which explains how IPv6 works and what you can do to make sure your servers are ready to host IPv6 content. Steadfast Networks' support of IPv6, however, does not go far enough. You and we need to encourage hosting control panel vendors, network providers and ISPs to realize the importance of IPv6 and to make it an immediate priority. Our article linked above also provides information to contact control panel vendors accordingly.
If you're ready to get started, you can get an address for your dedicated server today before the rush begins.