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Addressing internet expansion

The growth of the internet is putting a strain on its underlying architecture. However, an EU-funded project, 6NET, studied new ways of helping ensure that the Internet can continue to expand and deliver increasingly complex services well into the future.

Digital Economy

The project's aim was a simple one - help test technology that will support the continued expansion of the internet for years to come. With funding worth EUR 18 million, researchers built and tested a network joining 35 partners in 14 countries. Whenever a website is set up, it is assigned a number. Until recently, the internet has used a system of four sets of numbers which constitute a website or service's 'home'. For example, the number 66.249.65.140 corresponds to the 'web bot' of the popular Google search engine. This address system is called IPv4. With living areas in cyberspace becoming increasingly scarce, the addition of two more number sets will make continued expansion easier. This new system is called IPv6. Neither system should be confused with the uniform resource locator (URL) of a website, which is often used in place of the address. The main aims of the 6NET project were to gain experience in rolling out a new IPv6 network and migrating from the existing IPv4 system. The project also used its infrastructure to extensively test an array of new services and applications made possible by IPv6. This latter function was especially important, since IPv6 makes a range of new products and services that are not possible within the IPv4 framework. The wider results of the 6NET project have been turned into a number of so-called 'cookbooks' for network administrators, IT managers, network researchers and those interested in deploying IPv6. Volumes on general reference and specific deployment scenarios (such as site transition, multicast, mobility, or routing) are available. Early in the project, support for multicasting using IPv6 was recognised as highly important, since many applications use multicast technology. Making a generic, simple and scalable mechanism which could provide globally unique multicast addresses for user groups within specified time periods was required, as existent mechanisms were not globally reliable. At the same time, a complete taxonomy of the IPv6 multicast addresses allocation problem was developed. By developing a complementary allocation mechanism for collision avoidance, further research in the areas of bandwidth preservation, multicast security and broadcast efficiency are now possible.

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