Two Sides Forming on IPv6 Acceptance

Carl Weinschenk

The long slog to IPv6 hit a dramatic high point in February as the last fresh supply of IPv4 addresses was awarded.

It turns out that the event may not have been the turning point that proponents of the new addressing scheme had hoped - and may even have assumed. This InfoWorld story on the Brocade Technology Day suggests that there are significant numbers of industry folks who think that the best approach is to limp along as the telecom and IT industries have for a number of years. The attitude, apparently, is that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. What these folks may not realize is that it may indeed break and, if it does, it will not be fixed very quickly.

The story suggests that two sides are forming. The writer quotes Keith Stewart, Brocade's director of product management:

The "IPv4 diehards" think that the current addressing scheme can be extended forever through NAT (network address translation) and there is no economic incentive to move to IPv6, he said. The "IPv6 purists" believe all organizations should move to the new protocol in the next 18 months. "That's simply not economically viable," Stewart said. It's also not realistic to think NAT will take care of all the IPv6-only client devices that enterprises will want to reach in the coming years, he said.

The main line of thinking for the past few years is that IPv6 is an inevitable upgrade. This common wisdom has grown stronger as the emergence of wireless, smart grid and machine-to-machine communications increasingly make it clear that the paltry 4.3 billion or so IPv4 addresses just won't cut it.

The problem is that the transition can be tricky, as this Network Computing piece describing its internal move to IPv6 suggests, and it doesn't directly generate revenue. It maintains the revenues that are flowing today enable the organization to make more money indirectly by setting up the infrastructure for new and advanced services. But it doesn't immediately and impressively add to the bottom line.

Organizations whose mandate is to push IPv6 have been stepping up their game. If the schism outlined in the InfoWorld piece is accurate - that two sides are forming - the group advocating a proactive move to IPv6 needs to very directly tell the industry what will happen if the move isn't made.

The ramifications of remaining stagnant must be spelled out very graphically in terms of lost revenues, receding market share (compared to competitors that make the move) and other real-world problems and headaches. In short, it must be made extraordinarily clear that waiting will have a cost and that dealing with the issues - such as transitioning email to the new system - is worthwhile.

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