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One would think that nothing motivates people to action quite like impending disaster. Yet, in the past few years, we’ve seen remarkable complacency among IT customers confronted with warnings of such likelihoods.

It’s hard to believe that Y2K is already 15 years behind us, but those Cobol and Fortran programmers who got hauled out of retirement still remember the urgency that their new employers were living with. Still, with all the warnings of computers shutting down at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve 2000, most people didn’t believe that anything would happen. In fact, it felt like nothing did.

Then came the decision to move Daylight Savings Time. OS publishers were accused of waiting until it was way too late to recommend remediation for literally everyone’s computers. Still, most users barely registered the concern.

You Can Fool Some of the Internet Some of the Time

Then, there’s the impending disaster that was predicted when all of the available Internet addresses run out. Given that the original Internet addressing scheme, IPv4, is based on a 32-bit address space, there are 4.3 billion addresses possible. It’s predicted that … oh… so those actually already ran out on February 3, 2011, almost five years ago. That was the day that the Internet Assigned Names & Numbers Authority (IANA) distributed the last five blocks of 16 million available addresses each to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIR) serving Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa.

Since then, we’ve all been engaging every trick in the IP book to fool the Internet by hiding false IP addresses behind real ones with techniques like Network Address Translation (NAT). This has every home user and many corporate ones believing that their IP address is 192.168.0.something.

Now Add the Internet of Things

Depending on whose analysis you read, the Internet of things (IoT) promises to add tens or hundreds of billions of devices to the Internet, each requiring its own IP address. Virtual servers contain dozens of server instances, each requiring eight or more IP addresses, meaning that each VM host needs anywhere from 320 to 800 or more IP addresses. Also, every car, every household appliance, home theater system and more are all becoming network-enabled, requiring even more IP addresses. There’s only so much longer we can get by with IP tricks.

Your First Big IoT Opportunity Is Also Your Second One

1. You serve your customers best by warning them that:It’s only a matter of time before we must all transition to IPv6.

2. The transition is by no means a trivial project.

3. In fact, it will take two projects to complete the transition, and you won’t want to do that in a rush.

The new addressing scheme, IPv6, has been developed over the past several decades. It features a 128-bit address space offering 340 undecillion addresses, which would work out to 3.4 followed by 38 zeroes or 340 followed by 36. 

To successfully transition your customers, you will first want to build a hybrid, or dual-stack, network for them that can accommodate both IPv4 and IPv6 addressing so they can continue to communicate with other IPv4 hosts. Ultimately, you will then transition them a second time, bringing them completely over to IPv6. These two major projects, requiring addition of new equipment and the replacement of old equipment, also require a significant quantity of your expert services.

The First Opportunity

These two major projects represent a significant revenue source for your business as well as the opportunity to become your customer’s go-to partner for everything Internet-of-things.

Start talking with your customers today about how IPv4 addresses ran out five years ago and that the time to begin transitioning started back then. It is likely that transitioning them before it becomes a dire emergency will reduce their cost down the road and best prepare them for the future.

Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.