Sunday, March 20, 2011

Economist 3/10/11 Renumbering the net: IPv6 (example using Wolfram Alpha embedded)

Remember IPv6? The Economist reminds us why the internet of things will have no lack of IP addresses as we move from the old IPv4 to IPv6. Based on Hurricane Electric's estimate the internet ran out of bulk IP addresses on 2/3/11. The regional internet registries are expected to distribute these addresses in a few months. Here is a sense of the total IPv6 address space:

2^128 =
340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 938 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456
≈ 340 billion billion billion billion = 3.4 x 10^38 = "more than four quadrillion addresses for every star in the observable universe" (Martin Levy of Hurrican Electric, Fremont-based internet backbone ISP)

(PS: Not only can Wolfram Alpha's computational engine provide you the number names of 2^128 as shown above, you can also find out, for example, that
2^128-10^38 = 240282366920938463463374607431768211456 is 29.387%  smaller than 2^128 = 340282366920938463463374607431768211456.
In other words 10^38 is 71% of 2^128. 10^38 is the largest power of ten that is still less than 2^128. Try 10^39 and you will see that it exceeds 2^128. These are all large numbers which Alpha gracefully calculates and manipulates for you using a familiar syntax).

Since IPv6 is not backwardly compatible with IPv4 the two protocols will co-exist for the foreseeable future. IPv6 uses a simpler packet format than IPv4, which speeds up the new protocol but will require separate networks. Communication between devices between the two protocols will require tunnelling to have IPv6 wrapped inside IPv4 and vice versa.

Since the US pioneered the IP space, America has a significant reserve of IPv4 addresses still available and has much less incentive to upgrade to IPv4. China, for example, given its relatively late entry to IP space is upgrading to IPv6 rapidly. South Korea, Japan, and Russia are doing likewise and have been offering IPv6 since 2000.

IPv6 will be highlighted during "World IPv6 Day" on 8 June 2011.

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