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Behind the Numbers:
LSU participates in World IPv6 Day, prepares to switch to new system

Behind the highly trafficked pages of Facebook and LSU.edu lie droves of numerical coding that builds the infrastructure of the Internet – but those numbers are about to change.

On June 8, LSU and 12 other higher education institutions will join Facebook and Google on World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour test flight to prepare services for IPv6 and ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out.

In February, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, gave out its last five groups of IPv4 addresses to the Regional Internet Registries, which manages the allocation and registration of Internet number resources within a particular region of the world.

Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses are exclusive numbers all information technology devices – like computers, printers and routers use, which identifies and allows them to communicate with each other on a network.

Created in 1977, the current IPv4 system uses 32-bits – limiting it to a mere 4,294,967,296 possible unique addresses.

Aware of the finite number of IPv4 addresses, developers began working on a new system in the 1990s – IPv6. Unlike its predecessor, IPv6 uses a 128-bit address that is written with four hexadecimal digits that make up every 16 bits of the address, resulting in eight groups of hexadecimal digits, each separated by colons. This system allows for 32 undecillion – or 32,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – potential addresses.

“LSU strives to be at the forefront on network advances including the move to IPv6,” said Brian D. Voss, LSU vice chancellor for information technology. “Staying ahead of network changes is part of our commitment to providing the campus with the state-of-the-art, robust and secure network it needs to advance research, teaching and learning.”

LSU’s Information Technology Services, or ITS, has been working to make the existing IPv4 system work for everyone, going as far as requesting additional IPs. Analysts in ITS have been busy establishing a “dual-stack implementation of IPv6,” a transition technology allowing both IPv6 and IPv4 to run in parallel.

“We are currently at 80 percent deployment. There are a few buildings that are still not IPv6 ready, but should be soon,” said Hector Rios, LSU Information Technology Services’ network design manager.

As of now, the entire LSU wireless network is configured to support both IPv4 and IPv6, and tests have been run on servers and various operating systems to ensure everything will function with both systems.

“Some of our resources did not work with IPv6, so we have been working with vendors to report issues, test new software  and establish work arounds,” said Rios. “We have had to adjust the firewall to make sure it can handle the new set of vulnerabilities that come with IPv6.”

For more information about IPv6 Day, visit http://isoc.org/wp/worldipv6day/. For more information about LSU’s IPv6 readiness, visit http://networking.grok.lsu.edu/Article.aspx?articleId=15609.