Use of IPv6 showing signs of life

The amount of IPv6 traffic on the Internet remains small compared with the volume of IPv4 traffic, but according to a survey by the five Regional Internet Registries, the use of the new Internet Protocols has begun to creep up in the last year.

Nearly three quarters of respondents said that either none or fewer than 0.5 percent of their customers use IPv6, but that figure is coming down and the number of those reporting 2 percent or more using IPv6 is increasing.


How does the amount of IPv6 traffic compare with the amount of IPv4 traffic?

  2012 2011 2010
IPv6 traffic is insignificant 68% 78% 81%
IPv6 traffic is significant, but less than IPv4 28% 18% 16%
IPv6 traffic is the same as IPv4 2% 3% 3%
IPv6 traffic is greater than IPv4 2% 1% <1%
Source: Number Resource Organization


The Internet Protocols are the specifications that enable devices to communicate with each other over packet-switched networks, including the Internet. The most widely used version today is IPv4, but in the U.S. government the Office of Management and Budget has mandated that agencies enable the new protocols on public-facing services such as websites by Sept. 30 (though more than half of them haven't started). In the world at large, adoption of the new protocols is being driven by the exhaustion of the available pool of IPv4 addresses, which means that Internet growth now is shifting to the IPv6 address space.

But IPv4 continues to operate, and it still accounts for the overwhelming majority of traffic on the Internet today.

The registries that distribute Internet addresses have been tracking IPv6 use and its adoption by enterprises for the last four years. The American Registry for Internet Numbers carried out the first survey in 2008, and since 2010 all five registries have participated. This year’s survey, conducted by GNKS Consult, includes results from 1,443 respondents from 105 countries. Government organizations made up 5 percent of the respondents. The United States had 306 respondents, behind Germany with 341.

The significance of the traffic figures is not so much in the absolute volume of traffic, but in its growth over the last 12 months after having been relatively flat for the preceding two years. This growth is being driven by the increase in IPv6 addresses being put into service by carriers and service providers as IPv4 addresses become scarce -- and the fact that sites and services are enabled for the new protocols.

“Respondents are mostly driven by the inevitability [of] IPv6,” GNKS said of the deployment. “They either want to be ahead of the game, or want to make sure IPv6 is supported by their products, or even want to benefit from what IPv6 has to offer, sooner rather than later.”

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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