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IPv6 Day Shows Why The World Needs A New Internet

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The IT industry is backing World IPv6 Day because Internet addresses are running out – as cloud demand hits

For years, the new Internet protocol, IPv6, has languished, while advocates have argued that implementing it is vital – because of new features and the basic fact that today’s Internet only has a finite number of addresses. Today, a giant “test flight” for IPv6, backed by giants including Facebook, google and Yahoo, aims to show people that moving to IPv6 is safe, practical, and very necessary.

The growth of internet technologies and cloud computing has been largely driven by a huge increase in the number of web-enabled mobile devices, applications and services, each of which needs an internet protocol (IP) address to connect to the global public network.

That is why activities around today’s World IPv6 Day are designed to raise awareness of the issue of rapidly depleting IP version 4 (IPv4) address space. Announced in January, and sponsored by the Internet Society (ISOC) and involving some major internet bodies and IT vendors are offering their content over IPv6 for a 24-hour ‘test flight’.

Their goal is to motivate organisations across the industry – internet service providers (ISPs), telecommunications firms, hardware makers, operating system vendors, software developers and web companies – to prepare their systems and services for IP version 6 (IPv6) so enterprise IT teams can also make a successful transition.

External network readiness

A lot of the burden of IPv6 will fall on service providers, and they generally claim to be well prepared.

Yves Poppe, Tata Communications’ director of business development for IP strategy, told eWEEK Europe UK that his firm will be testing the IPv6-preparedness of its global network, which carries over 18 percent of the world’s Internet traffic. “Today is an excellent opportunity for enterprises to check their IPv6-readiness, where many companies are taking part by conducting rigorous testing of their external networks,” he said.

The IPv6 standard has been available since 1998. Although it supersedes the older IPv4 standard used since the early days of internet development that was first published in 1981, IPv6 adoption has been slow to say the least – less than one percent of the Internet’s traffic uses it, according to the latest figures. Poppe admitted that, while some enterprises have taken the leap and deployed IPv6, many are still dragging their heels.

“As IPv4 addresses are becoming increasingly difficult to come by, we expect more and more enterprises to make the switch in the coming months,” he said. As an example, a block of 666 thousand IPv4 addresses owned by bankrupt network giant Nortel was sold for $7.5 million to Microsoft in March. “With that in mind, we will also test the effectiveness of the processes we have in place to guide our customers through a smooth transition to the next generation protocol,” said Poppe.

The body that maintains IP address allocations, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has been expecting to run out of v4 addresses it can delegate to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) on 9 June 2011. And the RIR for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), told eWEEK Europe UK two years ago that its last address blocks were expected to run out around St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2012.

In parallel with the shift to IPv6, the world’s mobile networks are on the threshold of another major advancement – 4G/long-term evolution (LTE). Poppe said IPv6 and 4G/LTE go hand-in-hand, where the proliferation of 4G/LTE should increase IPv6 uptake because IPv6-compatibility is a key requirement of the LTE standard. “IPv6 will be in the DNA of all new 4G-enabled mobiles, smartphones and tablets coming to the market, making IPv6 a reality for internet users worldwide,” he added.

Simon McCalla, director of IT at .uk domain name registry Nominet, said migration was also crucial to not only maintaining business as usual, but also for fostering innovation. IPv6 provides many more points of connection via the public internet, whether mobilising a workforce, automating global supply chains or providing more ways for customers to communicate with a business, he said.

IPv6 is therefore also key to the success of UK Plc, he argued: “It also has the capability to support innovation and exciting new services that we hope can be developed in the UK like smart metering, for example, where household appliances are networked and energy tariffs can be automatically renegotiated every hour perhaps to lower costs.”

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