IoT: Driving the Need for IPv6
As Internet of Things devices multiply, the lack of readily available IP addresses will become critical.
It's impossible to open up the Sunday flier for a major electronics store without seeing ads for smart thermostats, coffee makers, refrigerators, and even light bulbs and crockpots. The notion that nothing is off limits when it comes to IP addresses has taken the world by storm. People want their gadgets to be Internet-aware and they want to control them remotely from their Android or IOS devices.
In recent No Jitter articles, I've addressed a number of issues surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT). Back in December, I wrote about the security risks that IoT exposes and just recently I took you on a tour of a few of my favorite IoT development platforms. Other No Jitter writers have addressed additional IoT topics (e.g., see "Cisco & IoT, But Where's the UC?") and I expect that here in 2016 we will see a steady cavalcade of IoT articles, discussions, slide shows, whitepapers, and product announcements. Clearly, this is an important topic that will be on the forefront of our minds for quite some time to come.
As we attach IP addresses to everything from toothbrushes to chewing gum (I can't guarantee the latter, but I bet someone is working on the former), the lack of readily available IP addresses will become critical. You may recall from my article, "The Long Road to IPv6," there are only 4,294,967,296 possible IPv4 addresses. While that may sound like a big number, consider that we live in a world where there are more cell phones than people. Add to that the fact that the population is growing at a rate of two people per second with mobile devices multiplying five times faster and we are on a collision course with the laws of supply and demand.
Since we can't spin gold from cloth or build bricks without straw, the move away from IPv4 and towards full adoption of IPv6 cannot come soon enough.
Make It So, Number One
Anyone who has been in this industry for a while is very familiar with interoperability problems. In the same way that no two vendors appear to have implemented Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) exactly the same way, interpretations of the IPv6 specifications are many and varied. The issues that arise from these mismatches can be even more catastrophic than those found in the world of communications protocols. IP mismatches can prevent two devices from even getting close to swapping SIP messages and media streams.
A team of educators from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) recognized this IPv6 interoperability concern and decided to address the problem head on. Since 1988, the team has been hosting vendors in the UNH InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) to ensure that product A can peacefully coexist with products B through Z. In this 27,000 square-foot laboratory, manufacturers have access to millions of dollars of test equipment and commercial products they essentially can use to "bake-off" their latest products against their competitors' offerings. This instills a sense of confidence in both vendors and consumers that what is sold and purchased not only does what it says it does, but plays nicely with others.
Who's On First?
Of the more than 150 members on the UNH-IOL member roster, you will find a who's who of manufacturers. For those interested in unified communications, I see the following:
- Extreme Networks
- And a host of others...
What this means is that from the standpoint of IPv6, you can intermix routers, telephones, call servers, and wireless controllers and be assured that bits and bytes don't get dropped on the floor.
The UNH-IOL Approach
The UNH-IOL has a multipronged approach. Along with testing, it participates in relevant standards bodies to provide training, promote early adoption, and impart guidance and insight into new technologies. The lab's belief is that as important as testing is, it takes more than plug and play to ensure that products, and more importantly technologies, work together.
That's why UNH-IOL not only has opened its doors to manufacturers but also participates in numerous industry forums, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Open Alliance, IPv6 Forum, Ethernet Alliance, IEEE, SIP Forum, and the Internet Engineering Task Force.
As important as transport protocols and addressing mechanisms are, IoT is more than the passing of messages on wired or wireless LANs. That's where the collaborative aspects of UNH-IOL comes in. Its consortium model allows the lab to serve as the technical arm for many different technologies and industries.
By maintaining a comprehensive knowledge center while providing technical services, UNH-IOL can assist in any number of issues that might arise during interoperability testing. In other words, testing is the glue that holds together a number of different capabilities offered by the IOL and you need them all to guarantee success in the marketplace.
Back to School
Since the IOL is run out of UNH, it goes without saying that undergraduate and graduate students are responsible for the heavy lifting. Under the supervision of UNH professors and staff, these students not only provide a service to the companies that use the IOL testing facilities, they are learning valuable skills that they will one day take into the workforce. This makes for a win-win situation that leads to the best and the brightest in the world of education becoming the best and brightest in the many industries they eventually land.
IoT devices will multiply like rabbits over the next several months and years. We will find them at work, at home, in our cars, on our wrists, in hospitals, on factory floors, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Making sure those devices behave properly while adhering to important standards is absolutely essential and groups such as the UNH-IOL will play no small part in that. They will be the unsung heroes of interoperability.
Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.