The Internet of Things is coming, and it's likely to drive a major increase in the use of IPv6.
During Cisco's Tech Radar event this week, David Ward, CTO of Engineering and Chief Architect at Cisco, said that the Internet is robust enough to handle the introduction of potentially billions of new objects. Ward said that history already proves that the Internet is highly scalable. In recent years, billions of smartphones and other mobile devices have already been attached to the Internet without breaking it.
Ward points to the rise of IPv6 as being a key enabler for the Internet of Things and the continued scalability of the network that is the Internet. IPv6 is a 128-bit address space for Internet Protocol traffic and is the successor to IPv4 which only has 32-bit address. IPv4 address space was officially depletedin February of 2011, with the free pool of new address being exhausted.
"IPv6 has been a long time coming," Ward said. "IPv6 has been available in the core of the Internet, and basically all the service providers have it, since it has come with the equipment for the better part of a decade."
He noted that for a long time, people have been asking what the killer app is for IPv6. As it turns out, the killer app isn't an actual app, but the continuous addition of countless new devices and objects to the Internet.
The issue for IPv6 adoption now is access, particularly on mobile devices. Ward stressed that mobile devices now come with IPv6. Ward expects that in 2014 and beyond, IPv6 bandwidth usage will grow because the networks are built today such that it can be the transport for scalable growth. Meanwhile, existing IPv4 address space, where all the content currently lies, can still be leveraged as a service.
Among the ways that IPv4 service enables IPv6 transport is with Carrier Grade NAT (Network Address Translation), which Ward sees as critical to the growth of the Internet of Things.
"We are going to be able to add several billion more devices onto the Internet, realizing that IPv6 has more address space then there are atoms composing the entire Earth," Ward said. "So let's hope we don't run out anytime soon, 'cause this address transition from IPv4 to IPv6 has been a long time coming."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist