You may remember earlier this year there was a flurry of posts about the internet running out of room. The provocation was that on February 3 of this year, the entire supply of 4,294,967,296 numeric addresses (in the IPv4 format) was allocated. The operative word being allocated as opposed to used, the tone of the many articles was precautionary and moderately concerned for the future. And moderately concerned they should be, as the solution of transferring from the IPv4 standard to the more advanced and numerically accommodating IPv6 is a tricky one. To illustrate the point, IPv6 will up the number of available addresses to an estimated 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.
With the exception of a few clarion calls urging for a wider-spread embracing of the new protocol, there has been little buzz on the subject until now. Nonetheless, Comcast has started the laborious process of weaning a nation hooked on IPv4 off it in favor of IPv6. In a limited trial, Comcast will be deploying the new protocol to the cheerily named Pleasanton, California. Anyone in the area who has an IPv6-capable modem (who is also running Windows 7 or Lion) will be able to use an IPv6 address in addition to their IPv4 address.
Comcast has released a FAQ concerning the pilot program. While they don’t provide an opt-out to the program, they do provide instructions on disabling IPv6 on their system. A side effect to the Native Dual Stack they will employ is that, for now, NAT’s will not be used citing performance benefits. They will use this test program to evaluate challenges and potential problems in future wide-scale implementations, and they will incrementally expand the list of eligible cable modems.
While there are efforts to prolong the allocated-but-available space we have left, it will take a bigger and more comprehensive push from all ISPs to put a significant (and eventually entire) segment of the internet-using population on IPv6 and put a stake in this problem…until we’ve exhausted all 2128 addresses in the distant future. Hopefully, humanity will have something else figured out well before then. After all, by then it will be the future.