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The IPv6 bandwagon has left the station, but who is onboard?

By Dean Perrine, director, Jaymie Scotto & Associates, special to Network World
July 11, 2012 02:56 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note that it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

The IPv6 movement has been years in the making. So many years, in fact, that it has hardly been a movement at all. While a handful of regions, primarily in Asia and pockets of Europe, have embraced IPv6, it has been otherwise largely ignored, something to be considered later while we exhaust IPv4 assets. This thinking has clearly stunted the growth of IPv6, presenting opportunities to early adopters and IPv6 facilitators and indigestion for the procrastinators.

Besides the indepletable address space (approximately 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique IP addresses vs. IPv4's 4.3 billion), IPv6 offers a number of network advantages: In most cases, for example, computers and applications will detect and take advantage of IPv6-enabled networks and services, and in most cases, without requiring any action from the user. And IPv6 relieves the need for Network Address Translation, a service that allows multiple clients to share a single IP address, but does not work well for some applications.

ISOC: IPv6 is the new normal for the Internet

BY THE NUMBERS: Why the Internet needs IPv6

For the Internet to take advantage of IPv6 most hosts on the Internet, as well as the networks connecting them, will need to deploy the protocol. However, IPv6 deployment is proving a bigger challenge than expected mostly due to lack of interest from the service providers and end users.

While IPv6 deployment is accelerating, according to a Google study, areas such as the Americas and Africa are comparatively lagging in deployment. In December 2010, despite marking its 12th anniversary as a Standards Track protocol, IPv6 was only in its infancy in terms of general worldwide deployment.

There are indeed interoperability issues between IPv6 and IPv4 which is leading to the creation, essentially of parallel, independent networks. Exchanging traffic between the two networks requires special translator gateways, but modern computer operating systems implement dual-protocol software for transparent access to both networks either natively, or using a tunneling protocol such as 6to4, 6in4, or Teredo. [Also see: "IPv6 tunnel basics"]

Fundamental Benefits of IPv6

Early adopters positioned to have greatest impact

Even early adopters of IPv6 as a network service understand that demand doesn't exist across the board today, but will soon. Akhil Verma, director of global product management for Inteliquent (formerly Neutral Tandem/Tinet), says, "IPv6 service providers lack the content, infrastructure and applications to make a good business case today and have contributed significantly to the lack of IPv6 adoption." This coming from Inteliquent, one of the world's leading providers and facilitators of IPv6 network-enabled solutions. Once the inevitable IPv6 levy breaks, an overwhelming number of network and content providers will be scrambling (and likely overpaying) to get IPv6 equipped and compliant -- a potential boon for those few IPv6 veteran IPv6 enablers.

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