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IPv6 is finally rolling out onto the internet. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for nearly ten years now. On 6 June 2012 we celebrated World IPv6 Day. This event marked a commitment by many major ISPs, home networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies around the world to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services. In the very long-term, this will revolutionise the internet.
The number of unique addresses available under IPv6 is difficult to express in non-mathematical terms. Wikipedia describes the number as 2^52 addresses for every observable star in the known universe. One of the nicest descriptions I have seen is that there are enough IPv6 addresses for every atom on the surface of the earth, and enough left over for another 100+ earth-sized planets. The idea that we could ever run out of IPv6 addresses is beyond imagining. So how did we get to this?
For a long time now I have seen endless articles stating that we are rapidly running out of IPv4 addresses. Most of these articles rave on about how every device that connects to the internet needs a unique IP address. That’s not exactly true, and if it was the case, we would have run out of addresses years ago. The truth is a lot more subtle than that. In most businesses, and even on home networks, we take advantage of a technologies like Network Address Translation (NAT), IP forwarding and port forwarding in order to connect to the internet. Most of these devices use a private address range and rely on one or two internet connected devices (routers or gateways) to handle internet connectivity. That means that a single public IP address can be used to allow hundreds of people to connect to the internet at once. IPv4 has a total of 4 294 967 296 unique addresses.
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