Addressing the address shortage

The question regarding Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) isn't if it will be adopted, but when. With the 32-bit IPv4 in use today, there is a danger of a shortage of IP addresses, but the new version's 128-bit design ensures that there will be a sufficient number of IP addresses so that more users and devices can be connected to the Next Generation Internet.

But slowing the move to the new version are concerns about backward compatibility with existing systems and IPv6's efficiency compared with that of IPv4.

For example, in IPv6, the header on each data packet provides a lot of information that is important for security- conscious users, but it is probably more information than is needed for most transactions, according to Todd Hanson, principal analyst with Gartner Group Inc.

"There is a tremendous amount of overhead in sending a packet with that complex of a header attached to it," he said. "It is probably too much for most folks. It is like driving around a huge pickup truck when it is half-empty most of the time."

Regardless, the lack of availability of addresses under IPv4 will force agencies to move to IPv6. "We are finding address depletion in certain commands," said Michael Brig, NGI program manager for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command center in Charleston, S.C.

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