Like many other technologies, the internet was originally created with limitations that few could imagine would ever be exceeded. The IPv4 protocol, however, is currently reaching capacity.
According to Neustar, the neutral, third-party organization that works to ensure compatibility of networks and devices, there are now approximately 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, serving 99.7 percent of the web.
As of February 2011, the last batch of IPv4 addresses were allocated. According to the organization, these addresses are likely to be depleted within approximately 12 months.
Internet-based technologies, such as cloud computing, are becoming increasingly popular, making the expansion of internet address options a vital need. As a result, the new IPv6 standard was introduced. IPv6 will offer as many as 340 undecillion IP addresses.
According to recent data released by Neustar, a number of trends are fueling the rapidly expanding need for new IP addresses. Chief among these are the growth of cloud computing, the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, worldwide penetration of internet access and the emergence of the "internet of things," which connects everything from appliances to vehicles to the internet.
Tom McGarry, vice president of the Advanced Technology Group at Neustar, said all businesses should consider migrating to IPv6. "A proper transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is integral to the future of conducting business via the internet," he said.
McGarry noted that the transition is a complex one that "cannot be handled in a hasty and piecemeal fashion" and ought to be conducted in a thoughtful and well-planned manner.
According to many experts, the contribution that the growth of cloud computing has made to internet use is unsurprising. A growing number of applications that were traditionally stored locally are now being migrated to the cloud, leading to a dramatic increase in internet use. In a recent presentation, federal CIO Vivek Kundra pointed to reduced expenses as a key factor fueling cloud adoption.