Colleges join internet goliaths in long-awaited protocol change

Higher education overall, he said, was on par with the private sector in preparing for the change.

“It’s quite a significant day because the future of the internet is iPv6,” Jimmerson said. “The internet cannot continue to grow the way it has without IPv6. IPv4 was never intended for a commercial global internet, so really what this does is signifies a starting point for the future of the internet.”

Scarcity of IP addresses certainly won’t prompt the next internet protocol switch. While IPv4 had about 4.3 billion addresses, IPv6 will provide more than 300 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses. Experts expect the old protocol to stick around in some capacity for another decade as the shift to IPv6 continues.

Industry estimates project that 80 percent of the web is still running on IPv4.

In fact, even schools at the forefront of the IP address protocol conversion said they took a “dual stacking” approach, meaning both protocols will run on campus for many more years before every desktop, laptop, and mobile device operates via IPv6.

Russell said colleges and universities that have invested hundreds of thousands in outdated legacy systems won’t make the full IPv6 conversion for years because that legacy equipment wasn’t made to run on the new protocol.

“It takes a long time to work that equipment out of the market,” he said. “They’ll be around for a long time to come. IPv4 is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

In a whitepaper detailing Oxford University’s transition away from IPv4, Guy Edwards, the university’s network development and support officer, said college IT departments should wait for scheduled hardware updates “rather than spending money to replace a large quantity of equipment” in their effort to convert to the new protocol.

Some of the world’s biggest, most popular websites “turned up” IPv6 on June 6, 2011, one year before the official protocol launch date, to ensure there were no glitches that would cause web users problems in June 2012.

“What you saw demonstrated last year was that everyone turned it up for a day, and nothing broke,” Jimmerson said. “Now it’s turned up and it’s the new normal.”

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