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What to Wear on World IPv6 Day

6/06/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, THIS WEDNESDAY
(June 8) is World IPv6 Day. What
happens on a day with that weighty a
milestone? Testing, testing and more
testing.

By now, this should be ringing
some bells. Sometime between Halloween
and the next New Year, the
set of Internet-protocol addresses
under the current numbering system,
IPv4, will vanish. Kaput. No more.

In its place will be IPv6 addresses. That’s important
because of the increasing number of things
in our daily lives that work best (or only) when connected
to the Internet. Anything that hooks up to
the Internet gets an IP address: computers, laptops,
smartphones, connected TVs, tablets.

The great thing about IPv6 addresses is that
there will apparently always be enough to go around,
no matter how Internet-crazy and cloud-addicted we
get. Its breadth is the layman’s equivalent of “gazillions.”

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about what
happens when something goes wrong. What happens
in that IPv4-heavy household, when there’s
no more IPv4? Does the Internet seem slower? Do
certain apps lock up? Blue screen of death?

In wholly unscientific hallway discussions with
people who work on this transition for a living, it appears
that more than half of home routers (the thing
after the cable modem that sprays signal around for
all your stuff) are IPv4. Many of the “connected TVs,”
so splashy just six months ago at CES, aren’t IPv6.

Turns out that the question of what happens has
different answers. As with most other complex technological
marathons, it depends. (Sorry! Sorry!)

Most, if not all, of the major cable providers are
transitioning to IPv6 in a way that should earn them
the right to say, “We got ya covered.” IPv4, IPv6,
sure. Either. If they do their thing right, you’ll keep
doing your things right, no issues.

Always in these conversations, though, one tech
term emerges, spoken ominously: carrier-grade NAT,
where NAT stands for Network Address Translation.
Boiled way down, it goes like this: Share the limited
number of IPv4 addresses among everyone who
needs them.

Surprise: It’s starting to look like certain applications
won’t do well in a carrier-grade NAT environment.
Think of any app that needs to talk a lot,
back and forth with the “cloud.” Streaming video
comes to mind, and over-the-top voice, and peer-topeer
file-sharing.

Which brings us back to World IPv6 Day. What
goes wrong will hopefully get a lot more informed —
because forearmed is forewarned.

As for what to wear: Geek out, brothers and sisters.
And if you’re aching for more, don’t forget the
IPv6 Summit at next week’s Cable Show in Chicago,
on Tuesday, June 14. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at
multichannel.com/blog or translation-please.com.

September