No IoT without IPv6

Does your company foresee making big bucks from the Internet of Things? It won’t be happening without widespread adoption of IPv6 first.

Do you think the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the Next Big Thing? It can’t be. Not until we get past the real Next Big Thing: IPv6.

Without the extensive global adoption and successful deployment of IPv6 as the primary version of the Internet Protocol, the IoT won’t be possible. In fact, the future of the Internet itself is at stake. Here are the five reasons why:

1. The IoT will need more IP addresses than IPv4 can provide.

According to Gartner’s estimate, by 2020 there will be more than 26 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet. Cisco is thinking even bigger; it has projected that there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020.

Unfortunately, IPv4 is still widely used, and IPv4 has only 4.3 billion possible IP addresses. Now, it’s true that that not every IoT device will need an IP address, but IPv4 can accommodate less than 20% of the devices that Gartner projects for a mere four years from now. Worse, most IPv4 addresses have already been depleted, with the one minor exception worldwide being in Africa. And even Africa’s allocation is projected to be depleted by March 31, 2018.

How much of a difference would IPv6 make? A lot. It has a total of 340 undecillion (that is 340 trillion trillion trillion) addresses. Even with the IoT fulfilling Cisco’s expectations, that should be enough for years to come.

But IPv6 adoption is weak. As of May 14, worldwide IPv6 traffic reaching Google totaled about 11.6%. The adoption rate for the U.S. federal government was about 62% for public-facing websites as of May 16. The good news is that adoption is increasing. Global IPv6 traffic accessing Google was less than 3% in January 2014 ,and only about 35% of the public-facing websites of U.S. federal agencies were using IPv6 back then.

2. Cloud computing also needs more IP addresses than IPv4 can provide.

When Microsoft chose to use IPv4 for the data centers that would support its cloud computing initiative, it had to chase globally after the extremely limited IPv4 addresses available and paid a very high price for them.

Supplies on the secondhand IPv4 exchange market are getting thin, so the price for IPv4 addresses will be going even higher — by some estimates, up to $100 per IPv4 address in the near future. Guess who will ultimately pay for such exorbitant prices. The customers, of course.

3. Adopting an IPv6-only policy can dramatically reduce cybersecurity threats.

This is simple: The moment we turn off IPv4, we will eliminate global cyberattacks and security threats based on the IPv4 stack. It may be that we have lost the battle against the bad actors in the IPv4 stack. But, we may still have a fighting chance to win the war in the IPv6 stack. This may be our best chance to gain the upper hand.

4. IPv4 is only a beta version of the Internet.

According to Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet and co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol suite, IPv4 is only “the experimental version of the Internet.” But we have been using this beta version of his Internet protocol since 1983. As Cerf stated, IPv6 is the actual production version of the Internet for the 21st century

Why have we been using a beta version in our production environment for so long?

5. Adopting IPv6 is a matter of leadership, vision and competitive edge.

Service providers and product manufacturers keep saying that there is no demand for IPv6 from their customers. But it is nonsense to wait for them. The majority of consumers do not know which version of IP is running in their electronic devices, and they don’t care.

What really matters is whether a company’s leadership has the vision to ensure that it retains a competitive edge for its products and services and is situated to thrive in a new era of rapid technological innovations based on IPv6.Companies that say there is no immediate money to be made by transitioning to IPv6 need to ask themselves whether they intend to make money from the IoT. One estimate, from Business Insider, is that the IoT represents at least a $6 trillion opportunity. But the IoT won’t be happening without IPv6.

Charles Sun is the technology co-chair of the U.S. Federal IPv6 Task Force. The views presented are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. government.

Join the Computerworld newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about CiscoGartnerGoogleinventorMicrosoft

Show Comments