IP protocols/software

IPv6 Launch Day: Should Milestones Be Boring?

The World IPv6 Launch Day should be business as usual for telecom service providers, but the ho-hum nature of the technical shift doesn't detract from the day's significance as a milestone, say industry experts.

While tomorrow (June 6) is identified as the day when many content providers and others permanently enable IPv6 on their networks, that transition has already happened for most network providers and for larger content networks as well. But taking note of an actual launch date is important as a way of pushing the transition forward. (See Now the Real IPv6 Days Begin.)

"With the exception of a couple of sites switching over right before the day, most of our customers who are participating have already permanently enabled IPv6 on their sites and we have been trying to treat conversions as routine business," says Erik Nygren, chief architect at Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), which operates a global content delivery network. "We are looking at this as a rallying point. There is still a lot of work to do."

Many of those who hadn't yet deployed IPv6 did so in advance of Wednesday's big day so they could troubleshoot problems and then announce their permanent launch for World Day, says Owen DeLong, IPv6 evangelist for service provider Hurricane Electric .

"There's been a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt around IPv6," says DeLong, who'll also celebrate his birthday tomorrow. "But people are turning it on to play with it, see if it works, and finding it's not that hard, things aren't so bad. That is becoming a game-changer."

The urgency to permanently enable IPv6 is driven by the diminishing pool of IPv4 numbers, and the likelihood that many more devices will be Internet-enabled, leading to an explosion of IP connections requiring new addresses. (See Global IPv4 Counter Hits Zero.)

When Nominum Inc. , which provides DNS solutions, security and services, asked its global ISP customers how they were preparing for IPv6, 97 percent said they had a plan in place, but a surprising 40 percent said they would make the transition in 2013 or later.

Those results are actually encouraging, says Craig Sprosts, GM of fixed broadband solutions for Nominum, because they represent significant progress over the last year. Some of the companies delaying the transition may believe they have enough IPv4 addresses in-hand to serve them in the near-term.

Sprosts is also encouraged to see most ISPs adopting more long-range IPv6 transition strategies such as dual-stacked IPv4/IPv6 networks. (See New IPv4 Address for Service Providers .)

"Eighty percent of the ISPs answering our survey said that is the way they are going to go," Sprosts says. "We see them moving away from things such as Carrier Grade NAT [network address translation], which is really a more short-term fix." (See The Ugly Side of IPv6: Carrier-Grade NAT and Cable Giants Get Aggressive on IPv6.)

VeriSign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN), which operates two of the Internet's 13 root nameservers, is also encouraged by an increase in IPv6 traffic to those servers -- from 1 percent a year ago to almost 4 percent today, says company CTO Burt Kaliski. There hasn't yet been a comparable increase in IPv6 traffic from .com or .net registries, however, indicating that where both v4 and v6 options are available, traffic is traveling the IPv4 route.

"The DNS space is hierarchical," Kaliski explains. "An increase in one place doesn't increase traffic everywhere. But that could change at any time."

One hopeful outcome of World IPv6 Launch Day will be to encourage content providers to enable IPv6. Akamai's Nygren says many content providers have been waiting for network issues to be resolved before taking the plunge. Some market verticals -- technology, Internet and the U.S. government, for example -- have been faster to adopt, and others are now getting more interested, including media companies, hotels and automobile manufacturers.

"Ultimately, Wednesday will be a good example of how the Internet community can make the Internet better," says VeriSign's Kaliski. "There is no mandate forcing June 6 to be the day that thousands of websites permanently enable IPv6, but we as an industry want to focus attention around the importance of forward process. It's a good thing for the industry long-term if we want to be able to have a unique address for every device."

You can learn much more about the IPv6 transition and what's still at stake in July at our second annual IPV6 event, IPv6:Where the Rubber Meets the Road. — Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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