Roughly three and a half decades after its inception, the IPv4 standard is just about tapped out and the US could consume the last of its IP addresses before this summer comes to a close, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. So now it's on to the next standard: IPv6 and its support for approximately 340 undecillion IP addresses.
Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4), which was introduced in the early 1980s, has the capacity to support about 4.3 billion IP addresses. Switching to IPv6 won't be simple -- really, there isn't much that ever is simple.
For the average Internet surfer, there won't be much to see. But for businesses, the changeover will hit them in their pockets.
IP addresses are the numerical names given to computer hardware, ranging from home routers to enterprise servers. They're more specific than the top level domain names that sit out in front of .coms and .nets and .govs. Besides, humans like words better than numbers and it's much easier to visit Facebook.com than it is to remember "188.8.131.52" or one of the hundreds of thousands of the site's other IP addresses.
The cost of an IP address, like most other goods, doesn't have a fixed price. And as businesses look to expand their web presence and the IPv4 real estate dwindles, the prices for IPv6 IPs will rise significantly in price.
Large businesses should have little trouble absorbing the costs of switching over to IPv6, but the little guys and gals could struggle. The average price for an IP address runs at around $11.25 per address, but, again, that price will surely rise soon.
Gartner Research estimates the cost of the IPv6 migration will cost the average IT department about seven percent of their annual budget. And along with the price for purchasing new IPs, organizations will also have to make hardware changes on the back end in order to support the newer standard.
"Enterprises that don't have a plan for what to do with this will have this brought up by their board," said James Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn, an internet consulting firm.
Several of the US' largest tech company already jumped out ahead of the issue. Microsoft secured 666,624 IP addresses for a combined total of $7.5 million back in 2011, scooping the addresses up out of the bargain bin from the bankrupt Nortel Networks.