The Internet is one of the greatest revolutionary innovations of the twentieth century.It made the 'global village utopia ' a reality in a rather short span of time. It is changing the way we interact with each other, the way we do business, the way we educate ourselves and even the way we entertain ourselves. Perhaps even the architects of Internet would not have foreseen the tremendous growth rate of the network being witnessed today.With the advent of the Web and multimedia services, the technology underlying t he Internet has been under stress.
It cannot adequately support many services being envisaged, such as real time video conferencing, interconnection of gigabit networks with lower bandwidths, high security applications such as electronic commerce, and interactive virtual reality applications. A more serious problem with today's Internet is that it can interconnect a maximum of four billion systems only, which is a small number as compared to the projected systems on the Internet in the twenty-first century.
Each machine on the net is given a 32-bit address. With 32 bits, a maximum of about four billion addresses is possible. Though this is a large a number, soon the Internet will have TV sets, and even pizza machines connected to it, and since each of them must have an IP address, this number becomes too small. The revision of IPv4 was taken up mainly to resolve the address problem, but in the course of refinements, several other features were also added to make it suitable for the next generation Internet.
This version was initially named IPng (IP next generation) and is now officially known as IPv6. IPv6 supports 128-bit addresses, the source address and the destination address, each being, 128 bits long. IPv5 a minor variation of IPv4 is presently running on some routers. Presently, most routers run software that support only IPv4. To switch over to IPv6 overnight is an impossible task and the transition is likely to take a very long time.
However to speed up the transition, an IPv4 compatible IPv6 addressing scheme has been worked out. Major vendors are now writing softwares for various computing environments to support IPv6 functionality. Incidentally, software development for different operating systems and router platforms will offer major jobs opportunities in coming years.