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No business case for IPv6, survey finds

But Internet Society members report rising customer demand, deployment plans

By , Network World
March 20, 2009 12:52 PM ET

Network World -
Business incentives are completely lacking today for upgrading to IPv6, the next generation Internet protocol, according to a survey of network operators conducted by the Internet Society (ISOC).

In a new report, ISOC says that ISPs, enterprises and network equipment vendors report that there are ``no concrete business drivers for IPv6.’’

However, survey respondents said customer demand for IPv6 is on the rise and that they are planning or deploying IPv6 because they feel it is the next major development in the evolution of the Internet.

ISOC released its survey on the same day that Google is sponsoring a two-day conference in Mountain View, Calif. for IPv6 implementers and a few days before it is hosting a panel on IPv6 adoption in San Francisco

IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. IPv6 was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force, a standards body that receives funding from ISOC.

IPv6 is needed because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support approximately 4.3 billion individually addressed devices on the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and can support so many devices that only a mathematical expression -- 2 to the 128th power -- can quantify its size.

Experts predict IPv4 addresses will be gone by 2012. At that point, all ISPs, government agencies and corporations will need to support IPv6 on their backbone networks. Today, only a handful of U.S. organizations – including the federal government and a few leading-edge companies like Bechtel – have deployed IPv6 across their networks.
All of the ISOC survey respondents said they are planning for IPv6, and most have begun deployment.

IPv6 deployment remains spotty, even for organizations committed to the technology, the survey found. When asked how they were deploying IPv6, a little over half said they were deploying IPv6 on parts of their network rather than their whole network. Several respondents said they envision parts of their networks never operating with IPv6.

The survey respondents didn’t indicate that they are worried about running out of IPv4 addresses. Only one of the survey respondents is closely tracking its IPv4 address usage, saying that it needs 130,000 new IPv4 addresses every three years. Most of the respondents said they will increase their use of network address translation (NAT) technology if they can’t get more IPv4 addresses.

What’s driving network operators to IPv6 is demand from customers rather than IPv4 address depletion, the survey found. Almost half of the respondents report customer pressure to migrate to IPv6. Fewer respondents indicated a need for additional address space or the desire for simpler addressing or less complexity on their networks.

More than half of the survey respondents said that additional address space is the primary motivator for IPv6. Network operators put less weight on the auto-configuration, built-in security and mobility features that are found in IPv6.

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