We’re running out of IP addresses. Sometime in the next year or two or five, we’ll run out of new numbers to assign to all the machines on the internet. As we discussed in a previous post, an IP address is a number, such as 220.127.116.11, that helps servers and computers find each other online.
As you can imagine, being able to add new machines to the internet is pretty important. They’re needed for new servers that host new websites. Even more will be needed when “the internet of things” takes off – that is, if we’re going to be hooking up sensors and connections to every imaginable Fitbit, thermostat, lighting fixture, and coffee-maker as the inanimate world goes “smart.” So what are we going to do when the IP addresses run out?
We’re going to switch to IPv6. The current kinds of IP addresses – IPv4 addresses – have four “octets” – four sets of numbers that can go from 0 to 256. IPv6 addresses have eight “hextets” – eight sets of numbers that can go from 0 to ffff. “ffff” is a hexadecimal number that is equivalent to 65535 in the normal decimal system. An example IPv6 address looks like this:
If you care to calculate the number of available IPv6 addresses, you’ll find that they run well, well past the trillions. Enough to assign a unique number to every machine humanity will ever build.
So get ready! Make sure your internet service provider and equipment are IPv6 capable. IPv6 is already in use, and will become increasingly common within the next decade. It might take some work now, but after switching from IPv4 to IPv6, you’ll never have to switch again.
By Sharon Campbell
Image Source: Rotate IP