IPv6: What are you waiting for?

John C. Tanner
21 Jun 2011

Earlier this year, IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) allocated the last of the slash-eight blocks of IPv4 addresses to the world’s five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) under normal processes. Two months later, APNIC imposed a rationing system for IPv4 address allocations. Both instances pegged 2011 as a watermark year for IPv6, the designated replacement for IPv4, which was always inevitably going to be depleted. And so just about everyone in the internet value chain now has to address the obvious question: are you ready for IPv6?

The answer varies, of course, but content players have been the least ready of the bunch, particularly large internet content providers that have been reluctant to switch over to native IPv6 and risk performance issues and traffic disruptions, not to mention losing users still on IPv4 to the competition.

Two weeks ago, the Internet Society (ISOC) and a consortium of carriers, vendors and content providers staged “World IPv6 Day”, a 24-hour trial in which content providers Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight enabled native IPv6 as the default protocol on their servers, with the aim of generating badly needed metrics to help carriers and content providers gauge IPv6 performance and impact.

The good news: it worked. Which is to say, World IPv6 Day went off without a hitch for the participants, with no major security breaches or service outages, while Internet users hardly noticed the difference.

The not-so-good news: the event also indicated just how far we have to go to transition to IPv6.

That’s not unexpected, of course. IPv6 currently accounts for a fraction of one percent of global internet traffic, and while native IPv6 traffic doubled during the event, observed Rob Malan of Arbor Networks, “doubling a fraction of a percent is still a fraction of a percent.”

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