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Reasons for supporting IPv6 continue to pile up

IPv4 addresses diminish; feds ready IPv6 portal; NTT expands IPv6 services

By , Network World
April 13, 2010 04:10 PM ET

Network World - Network and Web site operators are coming under increasing pressure to support IPv6 -- the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol -- as more market indicators point to the rapid depletion of addresses for IPv4.

The Number Resource Organization (NRO) announced on Tuesday that only 8% of IPv4 addresses remain unallocated. The NRO consists of the five Regional Internet Registries, which dole out blocks of IPv4 and IPv6 address space to carriers.

The NRO's latest figures are significant because the Internet infrastructure must be upgraded to support both IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 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.

When IPv4 addresses run out -- which is projected to occur in 2011 or 2012 -- carriers including Verizon and Comcast plan to provide their customers with IPv6 addresses.

Meanwhile, Web site operators such as Google and Netflix are adopting IPv6 so that users with IPv6 addresses can view their content.

Despite the efforts of these IPv6 pioneers, the NRO says the Internet industry is not prepared for IPv4 address space to run out.

To demonstrate that IPv6 deployment is happening too slowly, the NRO quoted statistics from an April Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report that said only 5.5% of the world's addressable IP networks can handle traffic over IPv6.

The OECD report also says fewer than 0.1% of U.S.users have adopted IPv6. But this miniscule amount is enough to put the United States in fourth place in terms of the percentage of IPv6-capable users. The leaders are: France, with 1% of  users having adopted IPv6; China with 0.4%; and Sweden with 0.1%.

IPv6-enabled Web content also lags. The OECD report also said that just 1.45% of the world's 1,000 most visited Web sites have IPv6 support.

In response to these statistics, the NRO is urging governments around the world to make IPv6 readiness a top priority.

"National governments play a hugely important role in helping to accelerate IPv6 adoption worldwide," said Axel Pawlik, chair of the Number Resource Organization, in a statement. "They have to lead the way by making their own content and services available over IPv6 and encouraging IPv6 deployment efforts amongst private sector organizations."

Feds ready IPv6 portal

An early proponent of IPv6, the U.S. federal government appears to be out in front of the NRO recommendations.

The General Services Administration is preparing the federal government's main Web site -- the www.usa.gov portal -- to support IPv6 in production mode. But the agency hasn't released a target date for when IPv6 services will be available on the site.

"The usa.gov infrastructure provided by the hosting vendor is fully capable of supporting IPv6. Additionally, all major components and operating systems used by usa.gov are IPv6 capable. [There] is no specific date to fully transition to IPv6 at this point in time, but we plan on keeping in time with the industry [as] it progresses in this transition," a GSA spokesman said in response to a recent query.

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