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World IPv6 day a success for those that can

It's World IPv6 Launch day

Some of the biggest names on the internet offered their content over IPv6 on Wednesday, marking a global ‘test flight’ for the future architecture of the internet.

The day’s success will be measured by the number of internet users that don’t see any difference in how they go about their business – a number that is not expected to be very high, given that the leading participants: Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Akamai to name a few, are dual stacking their websites.

Dual stacking means that organisations participating in world IPv6 day 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 World IPv6 day and the accompanying words of warning from internet registries is the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. On February 1, 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”.

Over the next several months, RIPE and other regional internet registries like it will distribute these last IPv4 addresses to network operators and service providers worldwide.

IPv6 includes a modern numbering system that provides a much larger address pool than IPv4, as when devices come online en masse— the so called Internet of Things—only IPv6 will be able to provide a sufficient number of addresses. IPv6 with its substantial address space of 128 bits as compared to 32 bits in IPv4 will provide virtually unlimited IP addresses for the future, expanding the number of possible addresses from approximately four billion with IPv4 to roughly 340 trillion trillion trillion with IPv6 .

Check the interview and podcast with Axel Pawlik, managing director of the RIPE NCC.

The proliferation of internet-connected e-readers, phones, and other devices is responsible for accelerating the depletion of IPv4 addresses worldwide, forcing an early adoption of the next generation of IP addressing – IPv6. In the Europe and Middle East regions, the last IPv4 addresses will be handed out sometime in the second half of this year, yet organisations are still requesting them.

RIPE NCC is measuring connectivity to World IPv6 Day participants using its IPv6 Eye Chart, which tests visibility of sites that are already dual-stacked on a single web page. Internet authority ISOC, which is running the IPv6 day event is also offering testing tools for end users.

The two numbering systems – v4 and v6 – will need to coexist for some time and there will be inevitable glitches and new problems that arise from the transition. But the key message is for service providers to get moving with their transition now, before it really is too late.

Mark Lewis, director of services development at Interoute, and Dave Siegel, vice president of IP services product management at Global Crossing, two of the leading internet backbone operators, offered these warnings: “The migration to IPv6 is the millennium bug hype equivalent of the 21st century. There will be inevitable technical glitches along the way, but there won’t be a crunch time for the switchover as IPv4 and IPv6 will need to run simultaneously as the migration takes place. And there is no deadline for most environments – the only essential piece, the internet, is IPv6-ready now,” said Lewis.

Yet the world’s enterprises and consumers will also need to act. “If your equipment is not IPv6-capable today, make a minimal investment to get some IPv6-capable equipment. Come up with an addressing plan, architecture and design.  Test with a dual-stack network provider to make sure your setup meets your specifications.  Note that migration to IPv6 could take a few months or years, depending on how aggressive your migration plan is, the types of network features you need and the hardware you need to replace.  You have time to make the switch from IPv4 to IPv6, but don’t put your organisation in jeopardy by delaying further,” said Siegel.

How ready for IPv6 are you?

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To find out more about the impact of World IPv6 Day, attend the IPv6 World Congress running on the 14-15 June in London. Key participants at the event will be Andrei Robachevsky, Infrastructure and Security Technology Program Manager at ISOC and Niall Murphy, IPv6 Engineer for Google.


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