IPv6 adoption remains slow, survey shows

Despite mandates and urgency, organizations are plodding

A global survey of Internet service providers and other networking companies found that only one quarter of ISPs are offering IPv6 services to customers, but 84 percent either have IPv6 address allocations or are making plans to get them.

“We do see a certain increase in knowledge, awareness and planning,” compared with a similar survey conducted last year, said Axel Pawlik, chairman of the Number Resource Organization, which represents the world’s five regional Internet registries.

IPv6 is the next generation of the Internet Protocols, which is being adopted in anticipation of the depletion of IPv4 address space, expected to occur within the next two years or less. But the actual use of IPv6 remains almost nonexistent, and a lack of customer demand and technical expertise is hindering the deployment of the new protocols in production networks.

In the United States the government has taken the lead in deployment of IPv6, requiring agencies to have their networks capable of handling IPv6 traffic and to buy only networking equipment that is IPv6 ready. Agencies are complying, but that only lays the foundation. Agencies are still using almost no IPv6 applications.

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Too many service providers are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward IPv6, Pawlik said in an interview from Vilnius, Lithuania, where the survey results were released at a global Internet conference.

“I have great concern for the 10 percent of ISPs who say they have no plans for IPv6,” he said. “What are they going to do in two years?”

The survey on IPv6 preparedness was funded by the European Commission for the Number Resource Organization, and questioned 1,589 organizations. The United States had the most respondents, with 214.

IP addresses are allocated by five regional registries, AfriNIC, which covers Africa; APNIC, the Asia and Pacific region; ARIN, North America and parts of the Caribbean; LACNIC, Latin America and parts of the Caribbean; and RIPE NCC, Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia.

Although the pool of IPv4 addresses available for allocation is expected to be exhausted soon, IPv4 traffic will not disappear and infrastructure using the existing protocols will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.

But Internet overseers expect that increasingly, growth in the Internet will come in the area of IPv6. The rapid growth of Internet-enabled devices and services is expected to generate an increased demand for addresses that in the near future will be met only in the IPv6 space.

So far this has not generated actual demand by users. Of those providers who are offering IPv6 services, 98 percent said that the volume of traffic is negligible to insignificant. Of those not offering the services, most cite a lack of customer demand and lack of expertise in managing IPv6 as the reason. Of those organizations that have no plans yet for acquiring and allocating IPv6 addresses, the lack of a business case is the primary reason.

But Pawlik said that the business case for deploying IPv6 is not increasing revenue immediately, but ensuring survival and growth after IPv4 is depleted. “There will be a lot of people who in 18 months will be looking around and scratching their heads,” he said.

Deploying IPv6 can be complicated, but managing the new protocols it is doable, Pawlik said. “Basically, everybody who has done it has said it is not as bad as they thought it would be.”

Other perceived barriers to deployment of IPv6 include cost, a lack of technical expertise and a lack of vendor support. More than half of respondents said that the cost of deployment was a major barrier for adoption, and 60% cited the lack of vendor support as a major barrier. Most current hardware and software support IPv6, however.

Forty-five percent of respondents reported a struggle to find knowledgeable technical staff to support deployment.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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