World IPv6 Launch date set; Google, Facebook, MS on board

The Internet Society is following up last year’s World IPv6 Day test flight with a global launch June 6, when major service providers, equipment vendors and websites, such as Google and Facebook, will permanently enable the new generation of Internet protocols.

Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society’s chief Internet technology officer, called the event a major milestone in the global deployment of IPv6.

“The fact that leading companies across several industries are making significant commitments to participate in World IPv6 Launch is yet another indication that IPv6 is no longer a lab experiment; it's here and is an important next step in the Internet’s evolution,” Daigle said. “By June 6 all of the participants will have met their commitments” to enable the protocols.


Related coverage:

What did we learn from World IPv6 Day?

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There is nothing magic about the June 6 date. Organizations can enable the use of IPv6 at any time to allow access to resources using the new protocols, and many already have. But bringing together a large community to make the move at one time focuses attention on the effort.

“There are a lot of eyes on everyone jumping into the pool at the same time,” Daigle said. The effort should help to crack the chicken-and-egg argument that inhibits deployment of IPv6: Content providers do not see a need to make content available in the new protocols until service providers enable access to it, and service providers see no reason to enable access until there is content available.

The Internet Protocols are the set of rules and specifications enabling communication and interoperability among components on the Internet and other IP networks. Version 4 of the protocols is what is commonly in use today. The addressing scheme included in the protocols has a limited number of IPv4 addresses that now is nearing depletion. So future growth on the Internet will require the use of IPv6, which has a much larger address space.

The government has made the transition to IPv6 a priority, requiring agencies to enable the protocols on public-facing websites by the end of 2012, and on internal network elements by 2014.

More than 400 entities, including more than 30 government websites and some of the Web’s major presences, such as Google and Facebook, participated in World IPv6 Day June 8, 2011, by publishing IPv6 addresses in Domain Name System records for 24 hours. The day came and went with little notice and fewer reported problems. Participating sites reported no problems and remained accessible throughout the day from around the country.

“All systems were ‘go,’” Daigle said of the day, which was billed as a “test flight” for the new protocols. The next step is to turn IPv6 on and leave it on.

ISPs participating in the launch will enable IPv6 for enough users by June 6 so that at least 1 percent of their wireline residential subscribers will be using IPv6 when visiting participating websites. IPv6 will be available automatically as the normal course of business, and end users should notice no difference.

“The goal is for nothing to happen,” Daigle said. “This should not interrupt the usage of the Internet.”

ISPs participating to date include:

  • AT&T
  • Comcast
  • Free Telecom
  • Internode
  • KDDI
  • Time Warner Cable
  • XS4ALL

Participating equipment manufacturers will enable IPv6 by default through the range of their home router products by June 6. Initial participants include Cisco and D-Link.

Participating Web companies will enable IPv6 on their main websites permanently beginning June 6. Inaugural participants are:

Content delivery network providers Akamai and Limelight will enable IPv6 throughout their infrastructure.

Despite the expected growth in IPv6 and the need to ready the Internet’s infrastructures for it, the volume of traffic using the new protocols still is small. There have been upticks in the allocation of the new addresses in some parts of the world, particularly Asia, where growth is rapid and the pools of IPv4 addresses have largely been used up. But growth in IPv6 traffic is inevitable as the new addresses are allocated and assigned to users and to Internet-enabled equipment.

Improvements in IPv6 should enable some new functionality, including easier peer-to-peer networking and improved security, but so far no killer app has appeared for the new protocols except for the larger addresses.

“At the end of the day, the key difference is the vastly larger address space,” Daigle said. “Size matters.” 

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