Imperial joins key trial for new internet access
7 June 2011
The internet as we know it is in danger. As more and more of us switch onto the web, the world is running out of IP addresses – unique codes that connect individual users and devices.
To overcome this barrier to continued expansion, a new addressing system – Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 – has been devised to replace the existing IPv4. And to test-run the new system, Imperial will be joining major internet organisations, such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, to switchover for 24 hours on Wednesday 8 June 2011.
Matthew Williams, Network and Infrastructure Manager (ICT) at Imperial explains: “IP addresses are like postcodes for the internet and every single user has a unique code, based on four sets of three numbers. When the internet was launched over 30 years ago, around four billion different address combinations seemed more than enough. But, as the number of users and devices has multiplied world-wide, we are close to running out of addresses, especially in growing economies such as India and China.
“A new address system is therefore vital and IPv6 gives us an enormous amount of number options, 2^128 compared to IPv4’s 2^32, which we estimate will be enough for 100 addresses for every atom on the Earth’s surface.”
Most devices already incorporate the necessary software to run IPv6 – it is an integral part of Windows 7, for example. But a few glitches among mainly older operating systems have delayed major internet players, such as Google, from moving across to the new system.
“Google Analytics have worked out,” says Matthew, “that 0.1% of their users cannot connect using the v6 address which sounds small, but could mean thousands of users not being able to access their site.”
Imperial is confident that College-owned machines should have no problems using IPv6, but network specialists will be on standby throughout the day in case of problems.
“Those of us taking part in the test-run hope that as many web-users as possible will try to connect on 8 June and let their internet service provider know of any problems. Once we identify the key difficulties, we can start trying to resolve them,” says Matthew.
Unless we make the switch we will continue with a series of short-term fixes that won’t solve the problem of continuing internet access as we know it.
The test-run will probably be repeated at a later date to iron out any remaining access problems before a full switchover to IPv6.
“Unless we make the switch,” says Matthew, “we will continue with a series of short-term fixes that won’t solve the problem of continuing internet access as we know it. That’s why World IPv6 Day is so important.”
Staff and students who experience any difficulties accessing the College website, using College-owned devices, on 8 June, should email the ICT Service Desk or call them on x49000.
More information about World IPv6 Day can be here, including links to sites which will test your IPv6 connectivity.
— Wendy Raeside, Communications and Development