When you think about the Internet, we have been really doing a lot with it since the late 1990s. It’s been around before that, but it really became a domain of the people by the end of the Clinton Administration. In 1994, there were fewer than 3000 websites live, but now that number is closer to one billion. One billion. That is a lot of websites to contend with, and considering how many businesses come and go, it is easy to think that those individuals, be they a sole proprietor or an organization, simply abandon their websites online to fester and take up space once a corporation runs its course.
So this shouldn’t come as a surprise: The United States is running out of Internet addresses.
You may have seen “IPV4” from time to time, depending on if your background is in IT or even if something is wrong with your access and Tech Support is walking you through a few advanced Troubleshooting steps. IPV4 stands for Internet Protocol Version 4 and is what we use to designate web addresses and make them work. Without the protocol, you would go nowhere beyond your browser. We’ve been pretty reliant on this protocol for decades, since it was created in the 1970s actually, but now that reliance on old technology has caught up with us. At the end of September, the American agency that oversees all net addresses in the North American region issued the last block of addresses. Now we have got to really to accelerate what the next version of internet protocol addressing will be. IPV4—the system we have been reliant on for so long—uses addresses that are 32 bits long, or so many combinations of zeroes and ones that gets you to where you are going online but limits the number of addresses that are available.
That was Version 4, though. Version 6 introduces a whole new way of doing things.
IPV6, the next generation of Internet Protocol, uses addresses 128 bits in length, four times as many as what is used in IPV4. This new bit-length offers an unbelievable number of addresses, more than enough to handle the world; and we’re going to need that because of the oncoming Internet of Things. If you don’t know the Internet of Things (or IoT) this is where items you own that aren’t a computer or smartphone are suddenly Internet-ready. Your car will have its own IP address, your refrigerator will have its own IP address, your alarm clock—everything is going to be able to access the Internet. So with IoT we’re going to need a lot of addresses so we have to go to IPV6.
This is when things get kind of tricky.
IPV4 with its 32 bits address space has been handling 4.3 billion addresses for close on four decades. There are still some of these addresses available in the world, like for instance the non-profit AfriNIC still have available addresses in Africa. India currently holds about 2.3 million IPV4 addresses remaining, but the North American block is now depleted. Compatibility must be an issue, you might think. Afraid not. All routers have been supporting IPV6 since 1999. That’s like 16 years! So we have known for at least 16 years that eventually we would need to jump from IPV4 to IPV6, and we still haven’t transitioned. With this depletion of available addresses, there is going to be a push to transition North America.
From this comes opportunity.
Along with the demand for the IPV6 addresses, we now have a secondary market on IPV4 addresses. These are the addresses eluded to at the opening of this column. A company goes out of business and now, floating out in cyberspace, is this block of assigned addresses. It’s something like an online salvage operation. You buy up these inactive address blocks, and then resell them.
Then you have implementing IPV6 alongside IPV4. If we could just shut down IPV4 and force everyone to run protocols using IPV6, the transition would be a piece of cake. What we want to do here, though, is bring IPV6 into use while still running IPV4. Running dual protocols, and doing this so seamlessly that you do not notice any difference in performance, makes this transition a little complex. Internet Service Providers (ISP), once they switch their routers over to IPV6, will have to also support IPV4 addresses. Otherwise, if an ISP only handles IPV6 the older IPV4 addresses will not be routed anywhere. Complicating things even further, even if intermediate routers are upgrade to IPV6, you have to find out if a company across the country and their routers support the new protocol or only support IPV4. Now you can see why running dual compatibility is so important here. If you explore computer networking as a career, you can learn IPV6 and make yourself in demand.
With each change comes the demand for individuals to answer the call and solve new problems these solutions may create. What is amazing—as well as so appealing—about technology is that technology is constantly changing. Only yesterday, Apple’s iOS, the operating system for its popular mobile devices, has become the latest secure SharePoint client for enterprise IT. App developer Coligo’s CEO, Barry Jinks, explains, “Apple continues to innovate around features that enterprises are looking for and they will continue to be strong because of the their focus on security and scalability. The continued strength of iOS in regulated industries and corporate departments with high need for governance (like legal and compliance departments) is the reason we developed Colligo Email Manager for iOS and the Colligo Engage platform.” This is big news as the iOS was never considered as enterprise IT material. Now, iPhones and iPad are entering the fold.
That kind of change is going to need support.
These transitions, these upgrades, may seem like the trials and tribulations; but this is opportunity. There are solid, lucrative careers in Information Technology, focusing on making protocols like IPV4 and IPV6 run together seamlessly, and providing support for iOS devices and SharePoint.
Innovation. It’s the ultimate job creator.
A research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.