On World IPv6 Launch Day, governments in the cockpit

On the eve of today’s World IPv6 Launch Day, one-third of respondents in a survey said they either have already deployed or are deploying the next generation of Internet Protocols on their networks. Within national government agencies, the number rises to about 43 percent.

“Governments are leading the way in terms of deployment status today,” said Tim
Rooney, product management director of BT Diamond IP, a division of British Telecom that provides IP address management tools and services, which conducted the survey. This is not surprising, given the government mandates for deploying IPv6, he added.

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In the United States, the Office of Management and Budget has set a deadline for federal agencies to enable the new protocols on public-facing servers and services by the end of fiscal 2012 and on all internal networks and applications two years later. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a little more than 250 operational government domains have enabled IPv6 to date.

Organizations with large numbers of IP addresses tend to be ahead in deployment of IPv6. Among those organizations that are waiting, lack of a strong business case is the most common reason for delay.

The findings were released June 6, World IPv6 Launch Day, an effort by the Internet Society to draw attention to the transition to IPv6 through public commitments from major service providers, equipment vendors and Web companies to permanently enable IPv6 on their networks, hardware and websites.

The Internet Protocols are the rules and specifications enabling communication among components on IP networks, including the Internet. Version 4 of the protocols is commonly in use today, and new IPv4 addresses are nearing depletion. This means that future growth on the Internet will require the use of IPv6. There is nothing magical about the June 6 date, but bringing together industry leaders to make the move at one time focuses attention on the effort.

The BT survey queried 876 people using an online questionnaire between April 23 and May 15. Fifty-four percent of respondents were in North America. Multinational enterprises made up the largest group, at 30 percent, and national government agencies accounted for 6 percent. State, provincial and local governments represented 4 percent.

BT Diamond IP last conducted an IPv6 survey in early 2011, just months after it was announced that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority had distributed the last blocks of IPv4 addresses to regional registries, which will assign them to users. Concern about IPv4 address depletion spiked to 35 percent in last year’s survey but dropped down to 25 in this year’s.

At the same time, the number of respondents who reported they already have deployed IPv6 on networks jumped from 5 percent last year to 13 percent this year. Twenty percent are in the process of deploying the protocols and 24 percent have plans to begin the process within the next two years.

“I think people are getting the message about IPv4 space running out,” Rooney said. “There is a lot more IPv6 action than we’ve seen in the past.”

Despite the attention, the Internet still is in the early phases of its transition to IPv6, and most organizations still have time for a measured approach, he said. “This is not like Y2K, where you had a hard deadline. But you need to begin thinking about it.”

How much time an organization has depends on the scope and importance of its online presence. As IPv4 addresses begin to run out and more end users have IPv6 addresses, maintaining seamless connectivity for these users will require enabling the new protocols. For organizations whose online activities are critical, particularly with customers or partners in Asia where the adoption of IPv6 is moving most quickly, the transition probably should begin in the next one or two years. For other organizations, the threshold could be three or four years or more.

IPv4 is not expected to go away anytime soon, and most organizations enabling IPv6 are employing dual stacks on their networks to accommodate both sets of protocols, the survey states.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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