Technology has always been the victim of a strange dichotomy: The faster it develops, the more resistance it faces. There are countless examples of this throughout history – television, motorcars and telephones were all dismissed by sceptics as nothing more than fads – and the reluctance to adopt is often the principal barrier to technological progress. The exponential advances of the past century and the proliferation of technology into our daily lives have made us less technophobic in the 21st century, but new technology is still often met with confusion or prejudice.

The internet has permeated all facets of our lives, and new technology will need to be implemented to cope with the burgeoning demands of the internet age –we’re already in the midst of shifting IP management from IPv4 to IPv6. But why does this matter, and how will Network Monitoring Software of the future adapt to meet these demands?

IPv4’s limitations have always been clear

In the early 1980s, when the internet was little more than an ambitious research project, any description of today’s internet-driven society and device-heavy culture would have been considered science-fiction. IPv4 allows for up to 4 billion different IP address configurations. At the time, this was considered astronomically excessive, but the limitations with regards to capacity and capability became clear within a decade of IPv4 moving into the mainstream. IPv6, by contrast, can support up to 340 undecillion (340 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000) addresses. For context, that’s enough to assign an IP address to every molecule in the solar system.

Why haven’t we already made the shift to IPv6?

With the explosion of the internet in the 1990s, the sudden increase in demand for IP addresses made it impossible to perform a simple “switch” from IPv4 to IPv6. However, capacity for IPv4 addresses was running out too quickly for it to be sustainable, and a pragmatic solution had to be implemented. For this reason, most service providers started running IPv4 and IPv6 together, through services such as NAT, which can be used to extend address limitations. While this has gone a long way toward plugging the holes inherent to IPv4, many speculate that making the inevitable shift to IPv6 in the future will be even more difficult as a result, and Network Monitoring Software of the very near future will have to address this concern.

What are the benefits of using IPv6?

It’s important to remember that while IPv6 solves many of the issues inherent to IPv4, it is more than a simple extension of IPv4 addressing. The benefits of using Network Monitoring Software that supports IPv6 include:

  • IPv6’s increased address size from 32 to 128 bits allows a virtually limitless number of addresses to be allocated.
  • Address allocation in IPv6 is stateless and automated, which eliminates the complications that arise with default router settings and address assignment.
  • IPsec support is optional in IPv4, but is an in-built feature of IPv6.
  • IPv6 routers do not have to fragment packets, relieving overhead pressure and improving network speeds.
  • QoS (Quality of Service) is built into the IPv6 framework – IPv6 can differentiate between delay-sensitive packets and bulk data transfers.
  • IPv4 uses whole class-type addresses for unspecified addresses ( and loopbacks (, while IPv6 uses :: and ::1 for unspecified addresses and loopbacks respectively.
  • IPv6 features an improved header structure that is lighter on processing overheads and eliminates optional and infrequently used fields.

Choose a partner with a clear vision of the future

Forward-thinking businesses should partner with Network Monitoring Software solutions that understand the importance of shifting to IPv6 in the near future. IRIS offers IP Address Management software and network monitoring software solutions that cater to both IPv4 and IPv6 needs. To find out more about how to gear your network for the future of IP address management, download a free copy of our Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Network.

Image credit: Wisegeek