Comcast and Time Warner Cable have joined the throng of network vendors that are participating in World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of the next-generation Internet protocol scheduled for June 8.
Participants in World IPv6 Day are required to support native IPv6 traffic on their public facing Web sites along with the current standard, known as IPv4.
"World IPv6 Day -- that's going to be a very important day," says John Brzozowski, chief architect for IPv6 and distinguished engineer at Comcast, which has an ongoing nationwide trial of IPv6. "Anybody participating will have to perform testing in advance of World IPv6 Day, which will help drive readiness and awareness."
Other big-name participants in World IPv6 Day include Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Akamai, Limelight Networks, Cisco, Juniper and Microsoft's Bing search service. Hosting service providers SoftLayer Technologies and Rackspace have signed on for the IPv6 trial, as have browser maker Mozilla and DNS appliance vendor BlueCat Networks.
Verizon Business and Blue Coat Systems say they will participate in World IPv6 Day but haven't officially signed up yet.
The growing list of World IPv6 Day participants is another sign of the market momentum surrounding IPv6, which has suddenly become the most significant network upgrade facing carriers and enterprises in years.
Network vendors are jumping on the World IPv6 Day bandwagon because they are anxious to show their customers -- particularly the U.S. military -- that they not only "talk the talk" but are willing to "walk the walk" when it comes to deploying their own IPv6 products.
IPv6 is a necessary upgrade because the Internet is running out of IP addresses using the 40-year-old IPv4 standard.
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The free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses was depleted two weeks ago, when the regional Internet registries receiving their final allocations from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The registries are expected to dole out most of the remaining IPv4 addresses over the next three to six months.
The Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses because IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support only 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices -- 2 to the 128th power.
Policymakers say network operators must upgrade to IPv6 in order to support the billions of additional people around the world who want to connect to the Internet through cell phones, PCs, gaming consoles or other devices. Today, the Internet has approximately 2 billion users, compared to a total world population topping 6 billion.
The goal of World IPv6 Day is to encourage the creation of IPv6-based content and to test the readiness of the new standard for high-volume usage. Trial participants want to discover how common it is for end users' network gear to be misconfigured and unable to support IPv6, a problem the industry calls IPv6 brokenness.
"The most important thing is for enterprises to IPv6 enable their public facing Web servers," says John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers. "Once you've done that, you can provide the same connectivity to your customers whether they have an IPv4 address or an IPv6 address. Until you do that, your IPv6 customers will appear unknown to your site. If you can do it by June 8, you can participate in all of the testing about how IPv6 works."