At a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week, ICANN, which is in charge of allocating IP addresses, said that it has added the latest version of to the Internet's Domain Name Servers (DNS) root server system.
IP addresses direct information packets across the Internet to the correct servers. The current IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses (usually represented, for instance, as 22.214.171.124), and eventually there won't be enough to meet demand. IPv6 uses longer 128-bit addresses--thus providing more possible addresses. Until ICANN's root DNS servers can understand those longer addresses, they can't locate them. DNS servers, deployed throughout the Internet, keep track of IP addresses and domain names. Now businesses and individuals who want to sign up for an IPv6 service will be able to communicate with people using IPv4 addresses.
Initially IPv6 support will be seen on Japan's (.jp) and Korea's (.kr) country codes. France (.fr) will be next.
"I was surprised that ICANN had not already been assigning IPv6 addresses and domains," said Michael Howard, an analyst with Infonetics Research. "It is a necessary step in the development and adoption of IPv6."
As more mobile devices come online and new services like Internet telephony gain momentum throughout the world, the need for IP addresses will grow. Asia and Europe are likely to be the first countries to experience an IP address shortage. There are two reasons: First, consumers in these markets are adopting newer technology faster than they are in the United States. Second, Europe and Asia were also originally given a much smaller pool of addresses than the United States, which holds more IP addresses than any other country.
In the United States, the technology will probably be adopted at a much slower pace. But commercial adoption could be accelerated by the U.S. Department of Defense. In June 2003, itthat all defense agencies be IPv6-ready by 2008. The agency has helped develop the network, which serves as a test bed for service providers and equipment makers testing IPv6 technology.
Experts agree that IPv4 and IPv6 will coexist for many years.
"This is really the first step forward in making IPv6 a useful protocol," Howard said. "A full conversion to IPv6 is still several years away. We won't likely even start to see widespread adoption until 2008 or 2010."