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Killer app for IPv6? It’s the Internet.

I recently solicited comments on what the killer app might be that would drive demand for and adoption of IPv6, the next generation of Internet Protocols. From what the readers had to say, the killer app is the Internet itself. Despite the possibilities for improved functionality in the new protocols, the overriding reason for using them is simply to keep the Internet alive and well as the old address pool dries up.

With the current IPv4 infrastructure becoming increasingly fragmented and fragile, “the Future is IPv6, or no Internet,” one reader commented. “You choose.”

There were no examples offered of anyone actually using the capacity or capability of the protocols for anything innovative. The only reason for enabling them is that this is where future growth of the Internet must take place, and anyone who wants to remain accessible without living behind increasingly congested bottlenecks will have to accept IPv6 traffic.

Two readers offered examples of current applications that would benefit from eliminating the fragmentation caused by Network Address Translation, voice over IP and multicasting for delivery of radio and television over the Internet. Some current trends support these ideas.

The NPD Group recently announced that there are more than half-a-billion Internet-connected devices in the U.S. homes, an average of 5.7 per household. Since the beginning of 2013, the number of tablets in use grew by nearly 18 million and the number of smart phones by 9 million.

This growth in IP is occurring at the same time that reliance on traditional electronic media is shrinking. As early as 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics reported  that nearly 27 percent of American homes did not have traditional wireline telephones. And the Nielsen Co. estimated that the number of households in the United States with television dropped from 115.9 million in 2011 to 114.7 million in 2012. The drop started with the digital conversion of television in 2009. The poor economy and demographic shifts with more young people relying on Internet for entertainment also contributed to the decline.

It appears that for the near future, the primary job of IPv6 will be keeping the Internet robust enough to enable its continued expansion as communications, information and entertainment medium. But that does not mean that the new protocols will not be put to some interesting and innovative uses.

“The ‘Killer App’ is, first and foremost, the increased connectivity implicit in the larger address space,” one reader commented. “What comes from that increased connectivity is, well, up to you to decide!”

Posted by William Jackson on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Reader Comments

Wed, Mar 27, 2013

Larry Frank - using IPv6 will require significant changes to all network aware applications, both client and server. Especially if they support BOTH IPv4 and IPv6. So more than just infrastructure is involved. You are correct that infrastructure must be upgraded, but that is not sufficient. The good news is that many apps are already upgraded, especially open source ones. Legacy apps can continue running in dual stack networks, but in a degraded mode compared to what would be possible if they were upgraded to dual stack.

Wed, Mar 27, 2013 Lawrence Hughes SE Asia

Dean - IPv6 is VERY stable - we have been running it in production since 2005. It has been refined and cleaned up since 1995 (18 years so far). I can make a more stable and efficient network today with IPv6 than I can with IPv4. Selvakumar - I have written applications that work only over IPv6. For example, ones that depend on a unique link local address being created on every interface the moment it is powered up. APIPA just doesn't cut it. I have written real P2P code that does not require NAT Traversal to work globally. I can use working scalable multicast. Every user in an IPv6 network can use 50,000 simultaneous ports going out (no bottleneck in NAT gateway). I can do real end to end security even across WANS. In some of this, the problem is NAT, not IPv4, but outside of a small private net, there is no IPv4 without NAT anymore. Having IPv6 instead of IPv4 really does open up incredible new opportunities to applications, even though IPv6 lives in the Internet layer.

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 smaudet

Its not just about infrastructure, its also a general developer awareness. There will need to be a lot of recompilation of infrastructure programs etc. to support it fully.

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 Larry Frank VA

Most users don't know or care what IP version their computer and network runs. When the infrastructure providers change from IPV4 to IPV6, they will change to. The question is when the ISPs in the united states will be required to do it (either by some mandate or by something like address space constraints.) As one of the commenter noted - it isn't an "app" issue - it is an infrastructure issue and it needs an infrastructure response.

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 Lawrence Hughes SE Asia

It is interesting that more than half of the responses to your question were from Asia (including mine). IPv4 ran out over a year ago (15 April 2011) and the migration is well underway here. The U.S. will not run out until later 2014 (based on current trends). EU ran out in Sept. 2012. In general, interest picks up strongly about a year after that region runs out of IPv4. By the time the U.S. finally becomes interested in IPv6, the Second Internet will be alive and well, and be owned and controlled by Asia. We have a multi-year head start on you already, and the gap is widening rapidly. I sometimes wonder if the U.S. will try to resist IPv6 like they have successfully resisted the Metric System (the only developed country to do so).

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