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By Patrick Marshall

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Will IPv6 ever have a killer app?

The volume of IPv6 traffic, though still small, has grown steadily over the last year. Although most federal agencies missed the Sept. 30, 2012 deadline for enabling the new protocols on public facing Web sites, they are slowly adopting IPv6. Hurricane Electric, which bills itself as the world’s largest native IPv6 backbone, has announced that it has connected more than 2,000 IPv6 networks.

But the world still is waiting for a reason to make the move. To date, the main reason for transitioning to the new Internet Protocols is that you have to. The Office of Management and Budget told agencies in 2010 that they had to enable IPv6, and the pool of available IPv4 addresses is drying up. Anyone who wants large blocks of new addresses now must get them in IPv6.

So far, however, the new protocols are being used pretty much like the old ones. When will we see a killer app that will make people want to use IPv6, and what will it be?

There has been a lot of talk in the last decade about the improved security that can be achieved with IPv6, the new Internet of Things it will enable and the benefits of true end-to-end connectivity once everyone gets rid of Network Address Translation (NAT).  A global organization such as the Defense Department stands to benefit from access to a nearly endless supply of IP endpoints that could be used to monitor, track and control millions of things anywhere in the world.
 
But despite changes such as the rapid growth of mobile devices, we still are using IP devices pretty much the same way we have for years. Screens are smaller, keyboards are virtual and there is some location-specific functionality, but a mobile device essentially is a little IPv4 PC.

Owen DeLong, IPv6 evangelist for Hurricane Electric, obviously is a fan of the new protocols. He thinks doing away with NAT will be a good thing. So what does he think the killer app for IPv6 will be? “None,” he says. People don’t feel they are missing anything with IPv4 now, and the benefits of a new set of Internet Protocols are too complex for today’s short attention spans. “It’s not something you can explain to the average user in a 10-word sound bite,” he said.

But the interesting thing about killer apps is that, like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects them. They are unplanned and become part of our lives before we know it. Is the next one already out there?

Are there any innovative uses of IPv6 by your agency or office? Has anyone found a use for the protocols that enables some functionality that was not practical before? Do you have a problem that you think IPv6 can solve? Drop me a line at wjackson@gcn.com and tell me if the new protocols are being used, how they are being used, or how you would like them to be used. Maybe we can identify a driver for the move to IPv6.

Posted by William Jackson on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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