Carl Weinschenk spoke with Brent Rowe, research economist, RTI International. The organization just completed a study, the IPv6 Economic Impact Assessment, that says implementation of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) will cost $25 billion over the next quarter century. IPv6 is seen as a key building block for next-generation networks.
Weinschenk: The explosion of IP-enabled devices - including many multimedia devices such as VoIP phones - is maxing out the available addressing. The next step is IPv6. What impact will that have?
Rowe: Essentially anything that people are interested in doing today can be done through IPv4 through different add-ons and things patched onto IPv6 networks. IPv6 would give people the motivation to break down some of the current infrastructural impediments - such things as NATs [network address translation]. These are essentially put into place because there are not enough address spaces As people learn the value of IPv6 and move to more of an end-to-end architecture, what will really happen is that there will be better and faster network applications that can connect with each other.
Weinschenk: So the drive toward a convergence-ready Internet is helped by both the addition of addresses and changes to the network that have to be undertaken in order to accommodate IPv6. Is that right?
Rowe: IPv6 comes with lots of different capacities. Underneath it all, more than anything proponents of IPv6 see it as something pushing toward a new way of connecting. What we found is that all the benefits are not [directly] attributable to IPv6. You get rid of NATs and change the [underlying] architecture. IPv6 is seen as an enabler. The efficiencies that should be gained through IPv6 networks are not gained unless certain network changes are made. There are additional benefits within the setup of IPv6. It's a little more concretely structured; IPv4 is more variable. Things like that are harder to gauge. More than anything IPv6 is an enabler or motivator to those types of things to allow people to improve their network architecture. Right now you can turn on IPv6 if you have a fairly recent version of Windows. The next Windows will have it on by default. For home users, they would not really know the difference.
Weinschenk: Is this changeover costly?
Rowe: As a percent of IT expenditures, it's an extremely small expenditure. We interviewed all kinds of users: ISPs, infrastructure vendors in which we included hardware, OS and application vendors such as SAP, Oracle, and others. We asked over a span of 10 years how much cost is involved five years before and five years after as a percent of IT spending. Most people do dual stack [of IPv4 and IPv6], a dual environment for a few years. Before they turn on and begin running two protocols, they need additional security. We did not hear people say there would be a giant cost. Because it's not a huge push, nobody said they are incurring additional hardware and software costs before routine upgrades. It seems to be a fairly common consensus that a world with IPv6 is better than a world of IPv4.