The time for dress rehearsals is over. This time we are going live. On June 6, thanks to the sterling efforts of the world’s leading content providers, Internet access providers and home equipment manufacturers, there will be real IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) traffic on the global Internet. And unlike the test flight a year ago, it will be for more than just a day. Next week, the Internet world as we know it will change forever.
For non-geeks, a quick primer: IPv6 today runs alongside and eventually will replace IPv4, the protocol that has been used to direct Internet traffic since the earliest days of the Internet. IPv4 is not being turned off but the spectacular growth of the Internet means more addresses are now needed than is possible with IPv4. The global reserve of the 4.3 billion addresses enabled by IPv4 was depleted in February 2011.
At the time of its creation, IPv4 was not intended to satisfy the needs of a global commercial Internet. It was only meant to support experimental research and government networks. We have known all along that it was a limited resource which would one day dry up. That day has come. Already in the Asia Pacific region, there is no remaining IPv4 address space to be distributed. Europe is expected to run out this year, followed by the US in 2013 and Latin America and Africa in 2014.
To move forward and continue adding new devices, services, and people to the Internet, we must deploy IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol which essentially provides an unlimited number of addresses. It was designed with the needs of a global commercial Internet in mind, and deploying it is the only way we can continue to progress with an open and innovative Internet.
For all this, businesses and other organisations have been slow to adopt the new protocol. Most still have not taken any steps to plan for IPv6 transition. This could be because they are not yet affected by the limitations of IPv4. They cannot afford to remain ostrich-like however. By continuing to rely solely on IPv4 with no plans to implement IPv6 in the near future, they risk facing a host of challenges, ranging from higher costs and limited website functionality to competitive pressure and reduced growth opportunities in emerging markets.
World IPv6 Launch is the fruition of last June’s test flight which content providers passed with flying colours. In the meantime, we have cleared the next hurdle: how to convince content providers and access providers to offer IPv6 as part of their “new normal” of Internet business.
But the time has come, and access providers participating in next week’s launch will roll out IPv6 as part of their regular offering on and after June 6 – and they will have enough of it in place by then to have 1% of their network traffic to participating content providers over IPv6. To the non-expert, 1% of some networks’ traffic over IPv6 after June 6 may not seem as a big deal. But it is a significant milestone and a solid starting point. In fact, because many home users have devices that limit their use of IPv6, participating Internet service providers (ISPs) will be enabling it on a great deal more than 1% of their footprint.
The Internet Society is pleased to be working with Facebook, Google, Microsoft Bing, and Yahoo! to measure IPv6 at ISPs.
These websites will, during the week after 6 June, measure the percentage of visitors using IPv6 from each of the networks that signed up to participate.
Crystal ball gazing is never easy. But we can say with certainty that much work remains to be done to relieve the pressure on IPv4 address depletion and to ensure the continued ability to have a globally connected Internet – before it’s too late.
Clearly, IPv6 is the future of the Internet, and without it we can no longer grow. In today’s Internet-driven world, businesses and organizations that aim to grow need to consider IPv6 a strategic part of their future as well.
By: Frederic Donck