Is Enough Progress being Made on IPv6?

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IPv6 is the corporate and government version of exercising and eating vegetables: Everyone agrees it's a good thing, but somehow most find a way to put it off. Despite the stark reality that the Internet is running out of addresses under the old scheme -- IPv4 -- momentum toward the new approach has been marginal.


Both the good news and the root of the problem is that an immediate infusion of new addresses is not necessary, since there still is something of a reserve and work-arounds -- most notably Network Address Translation (NAT) -- are stretching the current supply.


But the need is clear. The key reasons for moving are well articulated by Paul Twomey, president and chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in this ZDNet.co.uk podcast. Among other things, Twomey says that IPv6 will be the only way to expand networks after IPv4 addresses run out. In addition, companies must ensure that they and their ISPs have the proper gear and procedures in place to interconnect seamless connect IPv4 and IPv6 users.


IPv6 has been gurgling below the surface for quite some time. In what could be a significant move toward adoption, Google now is fully on board. A couple of months ago, according to Ars Technica, Google made its search available at ipv6.google.com. Now, a Google blog post suggests that the influential company is fully behind the concept. That's good news. The reality remains, as pointed out in the Ars Technica story, that the company has not yet implemented IPv6 capability "to www.google.com proper." The piece also describes some of the challenges of running a hybrid IPv4/IPv6 Internet.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sounds like an organization in a worried state of mind. InfoWorld's report on a study by the group starts with numbers that can explain the anxiety: The report says that 85 percent of Internet addresses are taken and the pool of available new ones will run out by 2011.


The changeover to IPv6, the report says, will require, according to the story, "extensive changes to networking hardware and software." Though the two versions of IP can co-exist and work together, IPv6 must be adopted comprehensively across the Internet to truly be effective. The OECD says that big businesses and ISPs are not doing enough to drive the adoption. Government must use its buying power to drive adoption, the organization says.


IPv6 proponents are in for a rude awakening if assume a government push to accelerate IPv6 adoption will occur. Federal agencies face a June 30 deadline for IPv6 upgrades. At the FOSE 2008 conference last month in Washington, D.C., ScienceLogic conducted a readiness survey. It found that only 6 percent of the 107 responding agencies are ready now. Twenty-two percent say they will meet the deadline, 33 percent say they will not and 39 percent aren't sure.


The Internet is global, of course, so it is important to keep an eye on what is happening everywhere. Heise Online reports that the European Commission at the end of the month will release a statement calling for 25 percent of all European users to have access to IPv6 by end 2010. The statement will outline four ways in which IPv6 adoption can be pushed. The story provides information on those approaches and says that efforts vary among the 27 member countries. While the piece doesn't mention any that are doing a poor job, it does laud the progress being made by Germany.


A lesser publicized advantage of IPv6 is that it could reduce energy consumption, at least according to this post by Greenmonk Associates. NAT works by dynamically allocating a pool of IPv4 addresses across the end points under its control. The devices must periodically send a message to the NAT infrastructure saying that they still are connected, lest the address they are using be given to another end point. The post and those it links to say that the requirement to send these messages -- which would be absent in IPv6 -- cuts battery life. This ultimately requires more frequent recharging. In addition to inconveniencing users, this is not in line with a green philosophy of network operation.