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A Business Guide to the Next Generation Internet Address

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra writes about Internet Protocol (IP) version six, or IPV6, which will drastically expand the number of possible Internet addresses.

As we move to a world in which practically everything can be networked to everything else, we see more and more opportunities for innovation.  But these opportunities also poses a challenge: As more and more devices get connected to the Internet—including computers, smartphones, innovative cloud computing platforms, and smart-grid tools—each of them is going to require an Internet Protocol (IP) address. 

That’s a lot of addresses, and that’s where IPv6 comes in.

Internet Protocol version six, or IPv6, is an Internet addressing system designed to expand the number of available IP addresses.  This expansion is necessary because the current number of addresses under Internet Protocol version four (IPv4) is gradually being exhausted.  While IPv4 supports 4 billion addresses, IPv6 supports 340 trillion trillion trillion possible addresses.  As such it represents a new generation of technology that can support unprecedented network growth, development, and innovation.

In recent months, the Administration has been working to highlight the importance of the adoption and deployment of IPv6.  We believe government can work in partnership with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the technology that underpins the Internet continues to support innovation and economic growth.  Though the IPv6 transition doesn’t mean much for consumers right now—they can continue to use existing devices and IPv4 addresses—action and planning is needed by industry.

Back in September, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) hosted an IPv6 workshop at which I challenged industry stakeholders to develop a tool to aid businesses and focus attention on the importance of deploying IPv6 within their companies.  Today, in response to my call, NTIA announced the release of just such a tool—an “IPv6 Readiness Tool” developed by industry and technical-community experts.  With the tool’s release, NTIA also renewed the call for businesses to prepare for the transition.

The planning tool outlines IPv6 preparedness issues, such as the technical needs associated with deployment.  It is designed to help business leaders identify readiness issues and to bring these issues to the attention of senior corporate management to ensure successful IPv6 deployment and facilitate accelerated innovation.

Though there is still much work to be done, this tool will help businesses focus on the importance of the transition to IPv6 and will support the Administration’s work to promote the adoption and deployment of IPv6 as part of our leadership for Internet innovation.

Going forward, we will continue to work with industry stakeholders and encourage them to share best practices on IPv6 uptake so that all businesses can benefit.  We want to impress upon companies such as smart-phone and router manufactures, transport providers, and Internet service providers—as well as chief information and technology officers and their technical teams throughout the industry—that this is an issue that can be successfully handled with good planning.  I am confident that working together we will surely succeed, and the Internet will continue to be an engine of creativity, community, and economic growth.

Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer