Forget Mardi Gras. Brazil is hosting a party for techies only this week to encourage deployment of IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol.
Brazil's IPv6 Week, which runs Feb. 6-12, has prompted dozens of Web sites across the country - and in Latin America and the Caribbean, too -- to turn on IPv6 alongside the current version of the Internet Protocol, known as IPv4.
BACKGROUND: IPv6 due for wide deployment in 2012
More than 120 organizations are participating in IPv6 Week, including carrier Telefonica, Portuguese content provider UOL; Brazilian TV network Globo, Brazilian video streaming company IG, and Spanish Web portal Terra.
Participating Web sites have agreed to support both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic for the week, while regional ISPs are offering IPv6 connectivity to businesses and homes for testing purposes.
"IPv6 Week started in Brazil, but it has become regional. Many content providers from other countries are involved in this activity," says Arturo Servin, CTO for LACNIC , the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry, which provides IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to carriers and enterprises in the region. "We're trying to get some movement from providers and ISPs in the region and get them to start working on IPv6 so they are more prepared."
Brazil's IPv6 Week is similar to World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour IPv6 test that was sponsored by the Internet Society in June of last year.
Carriers and content providers need to test IPv6 thoroughly and deploy it carefully because it is not backwards compatible with IPv4, which is running out of addresses. IPv6 solves the addressing limitations of IPv4 and can support billions of devices connected directly to the Internet. Network and Web site operators can either support both protocols in what's called dual-stack mode or translate between IPv4 and IPv6, which could add latency and cost.
Until recently, Latin America lagged the rest of the developed world on IPv6 deployment. One reason is that LACNIC isn't expected to run out of IPv4 addresses until January 2014. In contrast, Asia has already run out of IPv4 addresses, Europe is expected to deplete its supply this year, and North America's pool of IPv4 addresses will be gone next year.
"I don't know if it's to our advantage or our disadvantage that LACNIC is not running out of IPv4 addresses yet," Servin says. "For a long time, ISPs here didn't talk about IPv6. They think they can take things slowly and relax. But they aren't taking into account that IPv4 is gone in other regions. Asia Pacific doesn't have IPv4 addresses, so they are moving the Internet ahead in so many ways. It's important for the whole Internet to move to IPv6.''
The Brazilian Network Information Center, which operates the .br registry, came up with the idea for IPv6 Week to raise awareness among ISPs and content providers in the region that they need to start working on IPv6 deployment. Other organizations that helped publicize the week-long IPv6 trial include LACNIC and the Internet Society.
"The goal of this activity was to create awareness...to show users that it was very easy to deploy IPv6," says Christian O'Flaherty, Regional Development Manager for the Internet Society. "We're hoping this week is going to get people to start thinking about IPv6."
So far, IPv6 Week has gone smoothly. Of the 188 participating Web sites, 170 had successfully served up the quad-A records required by IPv6 in an ongoing measurement as of Wednesday morning.
"There were not many connectivity problems," O'Flaherty says. "Some users may have experienced some issues on the first day for their initial testing or configurations, but none were bad enough that anyone had to go back and dis-configure IPv6. No problems were big enough that they had to be announced."
IPv6 Week is generating some additional IPv6 traffic in Latin America. The event was timed to coincide with a technology-oriented festival that is taking place in Sao Paolo called Campus Party Brasil, which has attracted 7,000 participants.
"On Monday, about 1.5% to 2% of the traffic at Campus Party Brasil was IPv6," O'Flaherty says. "We have used Campus Party Brasil to give some talks about IPv6 and raise awareness."
O'Flaherty says that many of the Web sites participating in IPv6 Week plan to keep IPv6 services up and running after Feb. 12. Others are gearing up for the next IPv6-related challenge: World IPv6 Launch, which is scheduled for June 6. World IPv6 Launch is the agreed-upon deadline for many popular Web sites such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo to deploy IPv6 permanently.
"We hope to have more participation in our region in World IPv6 Launch," O'Flaherty says. "Last year, at World IPv6 Day, there were not many Latin American or Caribbean organizations participating...We will be trying to work with all of these participants to encourage them to finish their tests and start doing IPv6 services that are more official and standard."
Servin says the major carriers and ISPs in Latin America have upgraded their backbone networks to support IPv6 but haven't deployed the new protocol in their access networks. So while universities and business can purchase IPv6 transit in some Latin American cities, commercial IPv6 service isn't available yet for residential customers in the region.
"In our region, the issue is the access networks," Servin says. "We're trying to create awareness around that. The technical people are very aware of the problem, but we need the CTOs and CEOs who control the budgets and strategies in the ISPs to be aware that this upgrade to IPv6 is coming."
At least two U.S. carriers - Level 3 and Hurricane Electric - joined in on the IPv6 action in Brazil this week. Level 3, signed up for IPv6 Week as a supporting telco given that it provides commercial IPv6 services including dual-stack as well as IPv6 over MPLS. Hurricane Electric, meanwhile, used IPv6 Week as an excuse to launch a Portuguese language online certification program for IPv6 skills.