First, let's do a review of where we are: IP addresses are strings of numbers that are assigned to all devices that connect to the Internet. Until recently, the strings of numbers were a collection of 8-bit numbers (totaling 32 bits), but this configuration maxes out at 4.3 billion addresses, which we exhausted earlier this year, according to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. So now, the U.S. government has been spearheading initiatives urging the adoption of IPv6. Should the U.S. government mandate federal agencies to transition their websites to IPv6? Should the U.S. government require states to implement IPv6? The argument in favor of this is that so many Americans depend on federal websites. But there's a missing step here. The vast majority of Americans simply cannot access IPv6 yet. The government transitioning to IPv6 would ultimately be futile if the infrastructure isn't in place for us to access the sites.
In fact, according to Akamai's State of the Internet 2011 1st Quarter of 'the top one million Web sites as ranked by Alexa IPv6 reachability of these sites appeared to remain fairly constant at approximately 0.25 percent through the first half of the quarter but jumped suddenly to the 3 percent range in mid-February.' Sure, that looks like progress, but that's actually misleading. In fact, ZDNet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols took a much closer look at what's going on and found that this spike was mostly because of Google 'white-listing' Comcast for IPv6 connectivity. According to Vaughn-Nichols, this allowed Comcast 'to reach many blogspot.com [Google's domain name for blogs] hosts over IPv6.? But without this boost, IPv6 reachability at the end of the quarter would be approximately 0.3 percent. The study also found that aggregate IPv6 traffic volumes are between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of Web traffic.
While these numbers paint a dire picture, numbers don't tell the true impact of what's happening. But this will. I live in Walnut Creek, a community less than 30 miles from San Francisco - arguably, the epicenter of technology and innovation in the world. And yet, my community isn't yet equipped to handle IPv6 or high-speed Internet protocols. If we - just a stone's throw from Silicon Valley - can't transition easily to technological innovations, how can we expect anything more from the rest of the country?
The truth is, the transition to IPv6 will be a slow rollout that will happen over the next 10 years. There's still too much work that needs to be done from providers in terms of upgrading their wiring, pipes and firmware. So rather than steamrolling the industry towards adoption, let's take a step back and think about preparedness.