Year in review 2011: IPv6 readiness ramps up

The news: While the idea of transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 addressing has been swirling around for over a decade, it was only in 2011 when IPv4 address exhaustion began to show its head that people started to worry. This factor drove service providers, vendors and industry groups to facilitate awareness about having an IPv6 transition plan in place.

Adoption of the IPv6 addressing protocol, which will offer an unlimited amount of addresses, is now a necessity due to the depletion of new IPv4 addresses in April.

As that transition continues, service providers and holders of IPv4-based networks and web sites will run in a dual-stack mode simultaneously supporting both IPv4 and IPv6.

What helped drive awareness of the importance of putting in place an IPv6 transition were the efforts of what might be called IPv6 evangelists, including John Curran, CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and Hurricane Electric's CTO Owen Delong.

ARIN's Curran, for one, is the co-author of RFC 5211. Otherwise known as "An Internet Transition Plan," the document provides a framework to migrate the Internet from IPv4 to IPv6. He also wrote RFC 1669 entitled "Market Viability as a IPng Criteria", which summarizes some of the challenges IPv6 will have competing against IPv4 and the inevitable arrival of network address translation devices.

In June 2011, these IPv6 evangelists helped drive the first annual IPv6 day. Held on June 8, the event was a dress rehearsal where service providers tested the effects of more than 430 Internet content providers running their websites in a dual IPv4/IPv6 mode. During the event, there were no reports of any serious incidents or outages.

It appears that since the June 8th event, awareness of IPv6 transition has continued to mount. Infonetics reported in July that 83 percent of the service providers they interviewed planned to deploy IPv6 in 2011 or by 2012.

Later, InfoBlox released results of its sixth annual study on DNS (domain name servers) that showed, surprisingly, that the percentage of DNS zones that support IPv6 had jumped dramatically from 1.27 percent in October 2010 to 25.4 percent in October 2011.

Service providers such as AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Australia's Internode, are all moving ahead with their respective IPv6 transition plans.

AT&T is taking a five-step approach to its IPv6 transition. And while running a dual stack environment is a near-term reality, Tom Siracusa, executive director at AT&T Labs, said in a report that the operational costs of a dual stack network will eventually drive all flavors of users--large service providers, small ILECs, and everyday users--to switch to IPv6.  

Of course, the move to IPv6 isn't just about the core network. A growing number of home networking vendors that provide consumer-grade gateways and routers are also working diligently to ensure their respective home networking devices work, too.

At its third IPv6 CE Router Interoperability Test Event held in November, eight service providers and CE router vendors tested IPv6 readiness of their products in either home or small office networking environments. Taking part in the event were a number of well known CE vendors including Actiontec, Broadcom, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), D-Link, Lantiq, Motorola Mobility in addition to cable operator Time Warner (NYSE: TWC).

Why it's significant: Creating awareness for service providers, vendors and businesses about having an IPv6 transition plan in place will ensure that these groups and respective clientele will continue to be able interact with them.

Year in review 2011: IPv6 readiness ramps up