Home » IPV6, Load Balancers and the arrival of big IP addresses

IPV6, Load Balancers and the arrival of big IP addresses

Big IP Roads

When Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was conceived more than 4 decades ago it was never fathomed that there would eventually be an “Internet of Things” (IOT) with over 8 billion devices and nearly 2.5 billion users connected to the web. At the start, the internet’s only intent was to interconnect government and university networks. The internet has now since evolved by orders of magnitude into a rich environment where ~100 billion e-mails are exchanged and ~3 billion searches are executed every day. Millions of applications are delivered simultaneously across myriads of devices and anyone can get information on virtually anything from any part of the world.

To support the ongoing evolution of the internet and the sheer volume of connectivity, new specifications and technologies have been developed over the years to keep the web scaling smoothly. As an example IPv4 has an inherent limitation of a maximum of 4.3 billion available addresses. This may sound like a big number but when compared to the expectation of over 75 billion internet-connected devices by the year 2020, it’s really just a drop in the bucket.

In order to meet this “big IP” demand, Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) was created during the nineties to stave off an exhaustion of IP addresses. With support for addresses 128-bit in length, IPv6 provides more than 7.9 x 1028 times as many addresses available with IPv4 – this is theoretically more than 300 undecillion addresses. According to some, there are enough addresses in the IPv6 space to assign one to every atom on the surface of the earth and then do it again 100 times.

The Role of the Load Balancer in the “big IP” Expansion

As more devices are connected to the internet, more applications are deployed and the number of assigned IP addresses grow, the role of the load balancer will continue to be of prime importance in modern application infrastructures and the IOT as a whole. Regardless of whether IPv4 or IPv6 is in use, critical line of business Enterprise applications, e-commerce storefronts, machine-to-machine traffic flows and hosted SaaS offerings must be highly available and scalable. Load balancers such as the KEMP LoadMaster provide intelligent application front end services to not only ensure high availability but also optimize communication, add an additional layer of security and offload resource intensive services from application server instances to help them perform better.

As the migration to IPv6 gains popularity it’s important for technology decision makers to build and augment their environments with load balancers that can support the newer specification of IPv6 and do so without impact to performance. KEMP LoadMasters incorporate many features to support this transition such as mixed mode interface addressing, IPv6 ACL support and the ability to simultaneously address and manage virtual services and target servers across IPv4 and IPv6 address spaces. Additionally, in independent testing, the KEMP LoadMaster was found to perform as well and in some cases, better, in IPv6 infrastructures as it did in IPv4 environments.

The big IP transition to IPv6

While adoption has been gradual with only approximately 2% of users reaching Google services over IPv6 according to a recent report, it’s only a matter of time before IPv6 becomes the incumbent internet protocol standard. In addition to the increased number of available IP addresses IPv6 also offers the potential for improved security, simpler end-to-end routing and more efficient data flow. To gain the benefits that it brings it’s important for technology decision makers to plan now for the network infrastructures that will be needed to successfully implement and adopt IPv6 . Including KEMP in that plan ensures that IPv6 traffic will be handled efficiently, securely and with the high level of reliability that LoadMaster is known for.

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