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Carrying between 20% and 30% of the Internet's Web traffic on any given day, Akamai is the world's largest content delivery network (CDN). Akamai's engineering team has been working for two years to upgrade its 95,000 servers in 71 countries connected by 1,900 networks to support IPv6.
"We're highly supportive of IPv6," says Mike Cucchi, director of product marketing for Akamai. "We're a large consumer of IP addresses as well, so there are internal drivers. We need and want IPv6 addresses as well as just supporting the Internet community as it migrates to IPv6."
IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is called IPv4.
IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme that can support billions of devices connected directly to the Internet. But IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4, which is running out of addresses. Network operators can either support both protocols in what's called dual-stack mode or translate between IPv4 and IPv6.
In April, Akamai will announce built-in support for IPv6 in its three major product lines: Aqua for consumer-oriented services, Terra for enterprises and Sola for media companies. Companies will be able to upgrade to these application-as-a-service offerings in a matter of days, rather than spending weeks or months upgrading their own Web servers to support IPv6.
``We know IPv6 is part of doing business on the Internet, and we're going to include it on all of our platforms,'' Cucchi says.
Akamai hoped to release its production-grade IPv6 services by the end of 2011, but the task proved more difficult than originally anticipated. Akamai has been beta testing its IPv6 services with key customers since last fall.
Akamai's support for IPv6 will make it easier for its media and enterprise customers to serve up Web content to Internet users that have IPv6-only addresses, which is increasingly common in Asia and Europe. Among Akamai's customers are Apple, Lands' End, Ticketmaster, Travelocity and XM Satellite Radio. Akamai delivers more than 5 terabits/sec of Web traffic per day.
We want to act as a translator," Cucchi says. "Our customers can leverage Akamai through these transitional times. ... We can terminate IPv6 requests at the edge and send forth IPv4 to the data center environment. Our future roadmap will have a two-way translation that occurs."
Akamai's timing is ideal for U.S. federal agencies, which are required by an Obama administration mandate to support IPv6 on their public-facing websites and Web services by Sept. 30. Akamai's federal customers include the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
:We've had a number of government sites transition to being dual-stacked at Akamai," says Eric Nygren, chief architect for Akamai. "We're working with the rest of our government customers to help them" with the September deadline.