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IP Everything- a Tutorial

Modern society is very demanding on identities. Every person who travels has a passport in order to go between countries and the passport has a number that is unique in the world and over time. Every person has a mobile phone number that is unique to that person. Every house has a street address and the street address is unique in the local region. Every computer directly connected to the Internet has an address that is also unique although in some situations the address can change dynamically without involving a physical relocation. An identity that can change dynamically is interesting. However, more interesting is the development that the same identity system can be applicable to our mobile phones, house addresses, and all computers including laptops and servers in the near future. This development is taking place and the underlying technology is Internet Protocol addressing system Version 6 or IPv6 for short.

The current Internet addressing system is IPv4 and is nowhere as powerful as IPv6. IPv4 supplies 4.3 billion addresses only and the quantity is less than the population of the Earth. It cannot meet the needs of the world and Internet Service Providers have resorted to assign IP addresses to computers only when they are online. IPv6 is a superset of IPv4 retaining its effectiveness and introduces a lot more capability provisions to see us through the 21st century.

Princess Dianne Never Tried Slapping Prince Albert! Someone made up this scenario to help with memorising the framework of inter-computer communication that was enacted by the International Standards Organisation and is known as the OSI-7 Layer model. OSI stands for Open Systems Interconnect. The 7 words correspond to the 7 processes of activities that take place between the users of 2 computers connected for communication. At about the same time, the Internet Engineering Task Force which is responsible for overseeing technology applications on the backbone of the Internet introduced the famous TCP/IP stack. The stack is essentially the same as the ISO-7 Layer model.

Image the 7 layers as a vertical stack like a building. The bottom floor is 1 and the top floor is 7. TCP is 4 and IP is 3. Above TCP are activities related to how humans use the computer. Below IP are activities that enable connectivity between computers. Over the years, many developments have occurred at both the lower and upper layers and not the middle layers. This phenomenon has transformed the office building block to the shape of an hourglass with IP sitting squarely at the bottleneck. This situation gives modern technology developments a name with a prefix or suffix of IP such as Voice over IP, IP Television, and IP Video Surveillance etc. There are more of them to come. IP Everything!

Many people have contributed to the establishment of the ISO-7 layer model and the TCP/IP stack. However, Vince Cerf has been crowned as the Father of IP for his relentless and visionary efforts. He was a guest speaker of the New Zealand Government at a government consultation summit conference held a few years ago. His speech about what we can do with the latest technology is simply very impressive. He showed people how humans could land on Mars in bouncing balloons.

The writer has managed a computer system design and building company in New Zealand for 18 years and did not realize the significance of IP until the company ventured into Video Surveillance technology a year ago. Computer system building requires electronics and computer operating system knowledge whereas video surveillance requires optics and IP networking knowledge. Each camera of the video surveillance system is given an IP address and it maintains connection with the server through 7 layers until the images it captured are duly conveyed to human or to another control centre.

Developments in the lower layer are still taking place. Mobile and wireless technologies are certainly the latest developments that have given humans more freedom and flexibility to live, entertain and work. The Global Positing System is a group of low orbit satellites around the globe and this system has given us a navigation system that is very accurate and easy to use. 4G is coming soon, and it will revolutionize cellular communication systems with extra low prices.

Developments in the upper layers are quite independent of the lower layers as long as they stay on IP. This arrangement gives a huge boost to developers so that they can focus on what they know best without the fear of becoming obsolete by changes that are not in their areas of interest. Undoubtedly developments in the upper layers are more visible and beneficial to the average human in general and these developments will come in a large number over the foreseeable future.

As far as an average business manager or school principal is concerned, investments in IP applications would achieve several benefits. The first is that the application can be integrated with an existing computer network and managed by the same team of IT technicians and managers. Compatibility is very critical in the IT world. IP is a cornerstone of compatibility. Being IP-based assures compatibility. This aspect will certainly enhance fitness of purpose of the application as well as reducing its long term cost of ownership. The second is its future proof nature resulting in a further reduction of the cost of ownership. The third is the user friendliness aspect over time. As every man and his dog become computer proficient, they will become more competent with all applications that are IP based. In simple terms, IP has provided all of us a simple cornerstone for developments, applications and investments. Thanks to Vince and the other heroes again.

TN Chan is the System Architect of Compucon New Zealand (http://www.compucon.co.nz) and Computers New Zealand (www.cnz.co.nz). Compucon is primarily a computer system designer and builder, and CNZ is a service provider. There are 2 operations in these companies: PC Building/Supporting and IPVS Project Management where IPVS stands for IP based Video Surveillance systems.

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