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Launch event drives IPv6 traffic to all-time high

Web, email expected to continue rising for next-gen Internet Protocol

By , Network World
June 07, 2012 09:43 AM ET

Network World - The much-hyped World IPv6 Launch Day event on Wednesday resulted in a rise in IPv6 traffic -- including Web and email -- to a new peak as expected. But ISPs said the bigger story was the steady increase in IPv6 traffic that occurred in the months leading up to the event, which they anticipate will continue for the rest of 2012.

Coordinated by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Launch Day was a kick-off event for more than 50 access network providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable and 3,000 websites -- including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Bing -- to begin permanently supporting IPv6 for their customers.

IN PICTURES: Why the Internet needs IPv6

Several carriers, including Comcast and Hurricane Electric, reported that IPv6 traffic rose between 20% and 25% on their networks during the first few hours of World IPv6 Launch Day.

"Right after the initial launch, we saw a 20% to 25% increase in IPv6 traffic, which was expected," said John Brzozowski, distinguished engineer and chief architect for IPv6 at Comcast, which has 1.5% of its residential subscribers using IPv6 at this time. "We're not getting any trouble reports from the field. To us that means that our customers are happily going about their business using their Internet service disruption-free."

The event was a success for Comcast, which has been working on IPv6 for seven years and has the most aggressive deployment plan for next-gen Internet services among U.S. broadband providers. Comcast has enabled IPv6 across one-third of its subscriber network as well as providing IPv6 on its own websites, such as www.comcast.net and xfinitity.comcast.net.

"We're seeing over 1% of the traffic to our own content coming over IPv6," Brzozowski said. "The launch of IPv6 on the broadband side of the house is now resulting in over 1% of our traffic to our own content being IPv6. That's a pretty good measure for us of IPv6 adoption and usage."

IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, known as IPv4. IPv6 is needed because IPv4 is running out of addresses. However, IPv6 is not backward-compatible with IPv4. So network operators must run the two protocols side-by-side in what's called dual-stack mode or translate between them, which adds cost and latency to their operations. Because of these complications, IPv6 has suffered from a slow adoption curve. That's why Internet policymakers are promoting IPv6 through events such as World IPv6 Launch Day.

In addition to driving up IPv6-based Web traffic, World IPv6 Launch Day also saw a bump in IPv6-based email, with Google opening up Gmail to IPv6 and Comcast allowing some customers to send and receive email over it, too.

Comcast enabled its email infrastructure to support IPv6 in conjunction with Cloudmark, which reported that the first IPv6 email that Comcast received was spam. Cloudmark is pitching to ISPs a new way of filtering spam for IPv6 that involves tracking legitimate email senders rather than blacklisting spammers.

"Yes, our first IPv6 message was spam," Brzozowski said. "Deep down, I was hoping that it wouldn't be. Sadly, we had to wait a little while for a bona fide message that came over IPv6. ... We've taken our first step with IPv6-enabled mail with every intention that we will expand it over time."

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