Industry players flip IPv6 switch

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Today marks “World IPv6 Launch Day” and major Internet service providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers, and Web companies around the world are expected to enable their Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) products and services permanently, in an effort to speed up adoption.

Last year, World IPv6 Day focused on creating awareness of the need to implement IPv6 and functioned as a test-run for many Internet industry players. This year, however, the Internet industry is being encouraged to officially make the move away from IPv4 and fully implement the new protocol. An initiative of the Internet Society, today's World IPv6 Launch Day includes participants such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo.

According to the Internet Society, the switch to IPv6 has become imperative as the last blocks of the 4.3 billion IP addresses enabled by the current Internet Protocol (IPv4) were assigned to the Regional Internet Registries in February 2011.

“Already there is no remaining IPv4 address space to be distributed in the Asia Pacific region, and very soon the rest of the globe will follow. IPv4 address space is expected to run out in Europe this year, in the US next year, and in Latin America and Africa in 2014,” says the Internet Society, adding that IPv6 provides more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses.

“By making IPv6 the 'new normal', these companies are enabling millions of end-users to enjoy its benefits without having to do anything themselves,” says the Internet Society.

Get ready SA

The Internet Service Providers' Association of SA (ISPA) says today highlights the importance of local Internet industry players making IPv6 available locally. “We want the South African Internet industry to move as fast as their overseas counterparts; take the migration as seriously; and ensure that each host, computer or other device on the Internet that requires an IP address to communicate does so via IPv6,” says ISPA co-chair Jaap Scholten.

According to ISPA, at least 15 organisations at its Internet Exchanges in Johannesburg (JINX) and Cape Town (CINX) have been rolling out IPv6 on their networks in preparation for the uptake of IPv6 this year. “These Internet exchanges have been carrying South Africa's IPv6 peering traffic for a number of years,” says ISPA working group co-chair, Graham Beneke.

“IPv6 is ready and mature enough for widespread roll-out. Last year's test run has given major international players enough confidence to roll out IPv6 on a number of major Web sites and ISPA hopes local players will be similarly encouraged,” says Beneke.

The governing body for IP addressing in Africa, AfriNIC, has approached Internet Solutions (IS) to assist in moving its IPv6 Laboratory from Mauritius to SA. The lab provides online training in IPv6 for people in Africa. In support of promoting widespread deployment of IPv6 across the continent, IS is providing free hosting and bandwidth for the new lab.

Chief technology officer at IS, Prenesh Padayachee, says: “IPv6 needs to be much more widely adopted, so we see this as a development exercise. We need to uplift engineering skill around IPv6 in a cost-effective and efficient way, so we're supporting the AfriNIC Lab in order to help achieve this.”

Reaching maturity

Chief architect at Akamai, Erik Nygren, says World IPv6 Launch Day will be a milestone and he is optimistic that IPv6 adoption is gaining real traction.

“For over a decade, the groundwork for the migration to IPv6 has been built, with changes to operating systems, client and server software, routers, and Internet backbone networks. To date, however, the availability of IPv6 content and end-users has remained slim with few Web sites being available over IPv6 and with just over 0.5% of global Internet users having IPv6 connectivity that their machines will elect to use.

“With the era of freely available IPv4 addresses nearing its end, I'm pleased to see that 2012 appears to be the year when the IPv6 Internet will finally reach maturity and launch into wide-scale commercial use,” says Nygren.

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