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Getting at the real truth about IPv6

When your Web site needs to support it and how much it's going to cost you

By , Network World
July 18, 2011 12:10 AM ET

Network World - Is 2012 the year to invest in IPv6?

That's what CIOs want to know as they plan their IT budgets for the next fiscal year. They need to decide if they are going to set aside funds to deploy this emerging Internet standard and how much it will cost to upgrade their hardware and software.

The short answer to that question is: Yes.

6 simple steps toward IPv6

The conventional wisdom in the Internet industry is that CIOs need to invest in IPv6 during 2012 or they will put the growth plans for their online businesses at risk. This is because an increasing number of new mobile and broadband subscribers worldwide will be given IPv6 addresses starting in 2012.

"For an enterprise, it's a safe assumption to make that if you start today to do a design assessment and your addressing plan, you can plan for an IPv6 deployment in the first half of 2012,'' said Alain Fiocco, who leads the IPv6 program at Cisco. "2012 is when you're going to see some measurable percentage of users on IPv6."

Two recent events have demonstrated to CIOs around the world that the need for IPv6 is both real and imminent: The free pool of available IP addresses using the current protocol, IPv4, was depleted in February; and most IPv4 addresses in the Asia Pacific region were distributed to carriers in April.

Meanwhile, IPv6 has proven itself ready for deployment. On June 8, more than 400 of the Internet's largest players, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo, participated in a 24-hour trial of IPv6 dubbed World IPv6 Day. No major outages, security breaches or performance degradation were reported during the event.

BACKGROUND: Google, Facebook promise new IPv6 services after successful trial

"There was a lot of concern that things would be broken, but the overwhelming majority of participants [in World IPv6 Day] had a positive experience," says Greg Hankins, Global Solutions Architect for Brocade, which has supported IPv6 on its Web site, email and customer support infrastructure for more than a year. "I don't think I've seen a single horror story or really negative implementation experience from anyone, which speaks a lot about the maturity of IPv6 and the maturity of IPv6 implementations by various switching, routing and appliance vendors."

An estimated 20% of World IPv6 Day participants had such a positive experience with the new protocol that they left it up and running on their public-facing Web sites after the experiment was over. For example, Blue Coat left IPv6 enabled on its main Web site, and Cisco left IPv6 enabled on its www.scansafe.com Web site.

"We had a little over 1% of our users and traffic, our unique visitors, coming to the cisco.com Web site over IPv6. That's pretty consistent with the rest of the industry," Fiocco says. "That represents a couple of tens of thousands of unique visitors in 24 hours. None of them had any big, serious problems... For users in the U.S., performance in IPv6 was exactly equivalent to IPv4."

The only disappointment for Cisco was that it was expecting 2% of its overall traffic at www.cisco.com to be IPv6 on World IPv6 Day instead of 1%. "That's probably something we need to focus on for the next phase: working with the ISPs so that they enable the eyeballs," Fiocco says.

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