The Long-Running IPv6 Transition Show

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Network Visibility Can Help Avoid the IT Blame Game

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is something like an existential play, perhaps without the clever dialogue. The folks whose goal it is to convince ISPs and content creators to use the new addressing scheme repeatedly say that the old addresses are running out. It never seems to happen, however.

The play has been ongoing for several years. The problem is that the job of selling a change has to create a clear and dramatic picture. The reality, however, can be subtle and set over a long timeframe.

This creates an atmosphere in which the people who have to move on IPv6 have a built-in excuse to shuffle it to the bottom of the deck. That tendency is exacerbated by the fact that IPv6’s most immediate impact isn’t creating new revenue streams. Those only come later.

The latest act in the drama was described this week at Enterprise Networking Planet, which reports that a big batch of IPv4 addresses have been reclaimed and reissued:

On September 2, Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) around the world each received new IPv4 space from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The space given to each of the RIRs is the equivalent of what is known as a /12 address allocation. In a /12, there are approximately 1,048,574 IPv4 addresses.

In the big scheme of things, a bit over 1 million addresses for each of the five RIRs is not too big a deal, especially when it is juxtaposed against the intense needs of the Internet of Things. However, it is evidence that can be used by those who are dragging their feet to continue to do so.

Progress is being made, however. Comcast, for instance, said in July that its entire network is dual stack-capable. That means traffic can traverse the network using either IPv4 or IPv6. Another example is the integration of IPv6 into software-defined networks. Scott Hogg, the CTO of GTRI, used a Network World post to describe the progress being made on that front. It’s complex. The bottom line is that strides are being made in enabling the two emerging networking technologies to work together.

A more general picture was offered by Ars Technica in a look at a paper that was presented at the ACM SIGCOMM conference last month. The paper, written by the University of Michigan, the International Computer Science Institute, Arbor Networks and Verisign Labs, looked at how much progress IPv6 has made. The results are varied but the general sense is that IPv6 is “quickly capturing its own place under the sun next to its big brother IPv4.”

The total is not overwhelming, but the direction is positive:

Six years ago, we reported that IPv6 traffic was only 0.0026 percent, at 117Mbps of 4.5Tbps total traffic—although back then, the art and science of IPv6 traffic counting wasn't as developed as it is today, so this was probably an underestimate. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the total traffic was 58Tbps. By 2014, 0.6 percent of that was IPv6 traffic. In the grand scheme of things, that's not much. However, the fraction of IPv6 traffic grew by a factor of five in both 2012 and 2013.

The drama is almost certain to have a long run. That’s good news on Broadway, but not when it comes to implementation of a new addressing scheme. IPv6 experts should redouble efforts to convince decision makers that though more IPv4 addresses have become available, the need to implement the new scheme continues to be important.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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