Industry lights up IPv6 addresses

Major network operators around the world permanently enabled IPv6 for their products and services on Wednesday, June 6, as World IPv6 Launch day marked the official debut of dual-support capabilities that will be in place for many years to come.

The event, organised by the Internet Society, was designed to motivate organisations across the industry to ensure that their services are available over IPv6, as the pool of available IPv4 address space continues to diminish.

Dual stacking means that organisations will offer their content over IPv6 as well as over the IPv4 architecture still used globally today. Those that can access IPv6 content can do so via the provider’s IPv6-enabled web server, while the common masses are restricted to the IPv4 we know and love.

The reason for such a push and the accompanying words of warning from internet registries is the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. On February 1 2011, the global internet address authority IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) handed out two of the last blocks of freely available IPv4 addresses. The move triggered an automatic distribution of the remaining five blocks to each of the regional registries. There are no more IP addresses to be had from version four and according to RIPE NCC, the regional internet registry for Europe and Middle East, the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses is “the biggest event in the history of the internet”.

Mike Sapien, enterprise telecoms analyst at Ovum considers why more customers are now starting to realise the importance of addressing support for IPv6: “Although an obvious catalyst is the lack of IPv4 address space, we at Ovum have seen other factors in the migration or transition to IPv6. The proliferation of devices, mobile access to resources and B2C applications are driving customers to support IPv6. Ovum research, for an upcoming IPv6 report, has revealed that B2C applications are one of the common drivers for customers, including service providers, moving to IPv6.

“Government regulations will also drive this support. We are increasingly seeing government promoting deployment of IPv6. This combined with mobile device support and mobile access to web resources are the main drivers for most businesses. Customers will need to take a good inventory of their IT resources that are now IPv4, have a phased plan for dual IPv4/IPv6 support and implement this plan. This planning also needs to include third-party partners, resources and links that can be easily overlooked. Now is the time for customers to go beyond planning and get to the test and implement phase.”

Elsewhere, David Krozier, network infrastructure analyst at Ovum believes the launch will mark the culmination of ISPs’ efforts to turn up commercial IPv6 services: “Verizon currently supports enterprise and government customers with native and tunneled IPv6 services. The Verizon LTE network is enabled for IPv6, and the company is testing IPv6 on its FiOS network. AT&T set a 2020 date for full IPv6 deployment and offers IPv6 commercial services on its U-verse network with 6rd tunnels. Comcast has turned up IPv6 services to more than 1% of its residential wireline subscribers, and Time Warner also offers IPv6 to residential subscribers. Around the globe, Internode (Australia) supports IPv6 services with a dual-stack network, and ISPs in Hong Kong as well as KDDI, XS4ALL, and Free Telecom are all offering IPv6 connectivity.”

Mark Lewis, VP of development at international backbone operator Interoute, said: “The introduction of IPv6 is the IT equivalent of the move from imperial to metric for measurement; the two can run side by side but aren’t compatible with each other. One of the challenges with the introduction of IPv6 is that the de facto control points that secured and audited IPv4 have not been transferred into IPv6.  Meaning the industry will have to re-invent the wheel to enable this totally-connected world, where every device can speak to everything else in a secure and well managed way.

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