IT directors need to start planning to invest in dual IPv4/IPv6 equipment if they are to avoid costly "forklift upgrades" in two or three years' time, according to Hitachi Internetworking's vice-president and general manager Uri Rahamim, writes Antony Adshead.
However, analyst firm Gartner said the technology is so far from fruition that there are no practical implications for IT business users.
Internet Protocol version 6 is the 128-bit version of the existing IP addressing system IPv4, which only has a 32-bit address space.
Demand for IPv6 is predicted to rise over the next few years as the number of devices requiring an IP address increases with the rise of mobile technology, and internetworked devices proliferate in latecomer countries such as China and India.
Predicting a "Y2K-type phenomenon" Rahamim said he envisaged a scenario in which the four billion-address limit of IPv4 would be reached in 2005-2006.
"The US has 70% of the world's IP addresses. Major universities in the US have more IP addresses than China. Businesses in those countries, and in Europe when pervasive networking technologies such as 3G and always-on DSL take greater hold, will not be able to get more IP addresses," he said.
"Enterprise users should push service providers to make clear their plans for IPv6 services, asking them what they plan to provide and when.
"With enterprise networking equipment, there is no need to rush today, but they should look for dual-standard technology so there is no need for a forklift upgrade in two to three years' time and so they can spread the cost of migration over time."
However, Ian Keene, an analyst with Gartner, said he believes IPv6 is so far off that it does not require any immediate action on the part of IT managers.
"IPv6 is at the 'technology trigger' stage on the Gartner hype cycle. That means it is merely a concept and no one is actually using it," he said. "Users are finding ways around the address shortage problem, using methods such as dynamic addressing. 3G networks may bring some demand for the extra addresses needed but there is no need for business to make any plans at the moment."
What is Internet Protocol version 6?
Internet Protocol version 6 is the next generation internet protocol. The specification was completed in 1997 by the Internet Engineering Task Force. It is backward-compatible with IPv4 and is designed to address IPv4's shortcomings, such as data security and the number of user addresses possible. IPv6 increases the address space from 32bits to 128bits, providing for a virtually unlimited numbers of networks and systems.