Private-sector progress on IPv6 makes government look good, survey finds

Government agencies aren't the only organizations struggling to get ready for IPv6. In fact, compared with the private sector, they're ahead of the game.

Lexington, Mass-based Ipswitch, a provider of IT management software, recently surveyed more than 600 respondents and found that two-thirds of the respondents said that their networks were 0 percent to 20 percent ready for IPv6. A mere 12 percent indicated that their networks were 80 percent to 100 percent ready.

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The survey findings aren't surprising since plenty of Internet-connectable equipment currently being sold does not support IPv6, which represents the next bank of Internet address numbers to follow the current dwindling IPv4 supply. For instance, a February InfoWorld article found that Cisco Systems only plans to add IPv6 support to its Linksys wireless routers sometime this spring.

IPv4 vs. IPv6

IPv4 is a 32-bit approach that uses four groups of numbers, separated by periods, to indicate an IP address for a device. This approach, enabling nearly 4.3 billion distinct Internet addresses, was rolled out in the early 1980s. However, IPv4 addresses have since become scarce. As of Feb. 3 this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) allocated its last blocks of IPv4 addresses to five regional registries. The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre regional registry was the first to run out of IPv4 addresses, which happened on April 15.

As an indication that there might be a temporary scarcity of numbers during the transition to IPv6, a Microsoft-led coalition recently proposed buying IPv4 numbers from Nortel. The American Registry for Internet Numbers, handling registration in North America, apparently does not care about IP address sales because they can only be used according to its registry criteria. It only cares that allocated numbers get used.

IPv6 is a 128-bit approach that uses eight groups of four hexadecimal characters to indicate an IP address for a device. The number of distinct Internet addresses enabled by this scheme is estimated at 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses.

Going forward, new equipment that connects with the Internet will support both IPv4 and IPv6 in a dual-stack arrangement, not just one or the other, although the two schemes are incompatible. A World IPv6 Day is planned for June 8, 2011 to test to what degree device manufacturers, operating system providers, Web site operators and Internet service providers are ready after years of planning to accommodate IPv6. Led by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Day will be a mass global testing day in which Internet industry groups are supposed to enable IPv6 on the Web for 24 hours.

"By acting together, ISPs, web site operators, OS manufacturers, and equipment vendors will be able to address problems, such as IPv6 brokenness in home networks and incomplete IPv6 interconnection," the Internet Society states. "Also, on the day itself, any global scalability problems can be found in a controlled fashion and resolved cooperatively."

Windows will be ready

Microsoft's Windows operating systems also come under consideration for enabling IPv6. However, according to an article by Windows Secrets author Woody Leonhard, "IPv6 has been built into Windows since XP Service Pack 2." He adds that those using HomeGroup on Windows 7 already have IPv6 support across their PCs. It's also supported on the Mac OS, Linux and various mobile device OSes, he indicated.

An article by J. Peter Bruzzese suggests that clients using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) will work with DHCP servers, "assuming they're all on IPv6-compatible OSes and have IPv6 turned on."

An IPv6 test site is available ahead of time to check a user's connection and see if there will be any problems linking up with IPv6-only sites. The Internet Society anticipates that only that only 0.05 percent of users will experience problems. Users who may have problems will be those with "misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, particularly in home networks," according to the Internet Society. The organization recommends that users contact their ISPs if they have connection problems on World IPv6 Day.

Possibly, there will be firmware upgrades to Internet connected devices to address the IPv6 transition, but that availability would depend on the individual hardware manufacturer. ISPs can enable support for IPv6 on their networks by contracting with so-called tunnel providers, such as Anycast, Hurricane Electric or Microsoft's Teredo service.

So far, just one percent of the world's Internet traffic is associated with IPv6, according to an April study by Chelmsford, Mass.-based Arbor Networks. The company, which provides security and management solutions for datacenters and service providers, found that IPv6 traffic has not been growing, even while IPv4 traffic is showing growth, according to an eWeek article.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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