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Will 2010 be the year of IPv6?

Next-gen Internet is growing rapidly, but it’s still a tiny share of 'Net traffic

By , Network World
December 16, 2009 03:36 PM ET

Network World - Will IPv6 finally arrive stateside in 2010? That's the question U.S. ISPs and network equipment vendors are asking themselves after seeing a rise in IPv6 activity during the last six months of 2009.

IPv6 vs. IPv4

The Internet engineering community has been waiting a decade for widespread adoption and deployment of IPv6, an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol known as IPv4.

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.

IPv6 activity in the United States grew significantly in 2009.

Hurricane Electric, a Fremont, Calif. ISP, said in November that its IPv6 network doubled in size this year, with connections to more than 600 other IPv6 networks. Hurricane Electric claims to be the No. 1 IPv6 backbone in the world in terms of the number of IPv6 networks that it peers with and the number of IPv6 routes that it announces.

NTT America also saw 100% growth in its IPv6 traffic, says Cody Christman, director of product engineering.

"Our routing table for IPv6 doubled in the last year," Christman says. "We've had about 40% growth in the number of ports that we've sold for IPv6. A port may be a new customer or an existing customer getting another Gig-E connection. Either way, it's still significant growth."

Christman says 20% of NTT America's customers have purchased IPv6 transit services, most of which are dual stack and support both IPv6 and IPv4 traffic. NTT America is an IP transit wholesaler, so most of its customers are Internet, telecom, Web hosting and Web services companies.

"We're going to continue to see better-than-linear growth in 2010," Christman says. "But I doubt it will be hockey stick growth."

Global Crossing also predicts steady — but not astronomical — growth for IPv6 services in 2010. Another wholesaler, Global Crossing says the number of new orders it received for IPv6 transit services tripled this year, with most of the activity coming in the last two quarters of the year.

"IPv6 represented 6.3% of the new order activity in our Internet product line," says Matt Sewell, director of product management for Internet access at Global Crossing. Sewell says that figure was up from 2.1% in 2008.

"I expect the new order activity to rise to about 10% throughout 2010," Sewell adds. "More of our customers are asking if we are ready for IPv6."

Global Crossing's IPv6-related VPN sales are smaller, with only 0.2% of new customers requesting an IPv6 configuration this year. But the carrier is seeing interest from enterprise customers engaged in software development.

"One of our largest customers is trialing IPv6 on their VPN," says Joda Schaumberg, senior director of product management for enterprise networking at Global Crossing. "They have developers in the Middle East and Africa, and they are starting to see that IPv6 isn't just nice-to-have globally, but a requirement as they develop software applications that are IPv6-enabled."

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