Why switch to IPv6? So you can get free internet!

The global shortage of IPv4 addresses got a bit of a reprieve last month, when MIT announced it would be selling 8 million of the IPv4 addresses it had been sitting on. These were quickly purchased by major tech companies (such as Amazon), who are rumoured to have spent tens of millions of dollars on these coveted IP resources.

MIT says it will use the revenue from the IPv4 sale to invest in its IPv6 infrastructure upgrades and “support activities focused on the future of the Internet and the global cyber-infrastructure.”

Cybera has been preaching the importance of switching to IPv6 for many years now. The reality is: ARIN’s free pool of  IPv4 addresses has run out, and the global supply of 4 billion addresses is nearly depleted. Every device that connects to the internet needs its own IP address to communicate. The Network Address Translation (NAT) protocol, which allows for several hosts to “hide” behind a single IP address, has become a vital tool for conserving the existing IPv4 address pool. However, with new smart watches, appliances, thermostats (and now items of clothing) coming online every day, an unlimited number of IP addresses are required. Network scientists recognized this impending IPv4 exhaustion 25 years ago, and IPv6 was their solution.

Where IPv4 used a decimal system (for example: 192.168.1.1), the new protocol uses a hexadecimal or base 16 system, whereby both numbers and letters are used. This means it supports approximately 340 undecillion unique addresses. This is enough to assign an IPv6 address to every atom on the surface of the earth, and should be enough for the foreseeable future.  

We believe it is vitally important for research organizations in Alberta to migrate to IPv6, to ensure they can keep innovating, and keep collaborating with other organizations around the world who are already on IPv6. However, so far, only the University of Alberta has upgraded its infrastructure.

Realistically, we understand why most organizations in Alberta are still solely IPv4 compliant: it’s not easy to make the switch. You will need to update your company’s IT governance, as these upgrades will impact your infrastructure, security, wireless, users, servers, etc. This may require the IT team to work with staff in other departments (communications, administration and operations).

But the fact is: IPv6 traffic is growing. In Canada, 12% of connections to Akamai, and 17% to Google services, are via IPv6. These numbers are even higher in the USA. Belgium is actually leading the way on IPv6 (38% of its Akamai connections are via IPv6). These figures continue to grow each quarter. Major mobile carriers around the world are requiring manufacturers (who want their devices to work on LTE networks) to ensure their hardware can support IPv6.

Eventually, everyone will have to move to IPv6, but it may take decades before this is fully done. So, what case can we make for you to move over now?

Will the offer of free access to the IPv6 internet tempt you?

That’s right: any IPv6 traffic that traverses the National Research and Education Network is free. This includes any transit *and* peering traffic. That means, if you become IPv6 enabled, all of your IPv6 traffic will be free!

That’s the good news! Of course, it comes with a major caveat for Albertans: the SuperNet does not currently support IPv6, so if you are connecting to CyberaNet via SuperNet, you can’t take advantage of this offer. We are trying to find a work-around solution to that. (And it’s worth noting that the Pre-Qualification Request issued by Service Alberta for Supernet 2.0 specified IPv6 compatibility.)

If you want to find out more about why it’s worth switching to IPv6 sooner rather than later, or need advice on getting started, feel free to contact our network team.

Post-secondaries can also learn from other organizations that have already implemented IPv6: