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IPv6 for a Day: Sampling the New Web World

By Mike Martin
Jan 14, 2011 5:00 AM PT

With the supply of new IPv4 addresses scheduled to vanish this year, call World IPv6 Day just in time -- nearly eight years after TechNewsWorld first reported on the seemingly imminent debut of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), approved as the official replacement for IPv4 years earlier.

IPv6 for a Day: Sampling the New Web World

Amidst a tough economy, "forces were aligning" to make a rollout happen, and "developers were accelerating their deployment," all of which makes the upcoming World IPv6 Day technological déjà vu, with Facebook, Google and Yahoo committing to a "test IPv6 flight" on June 8, 2011, in the midst of a another tough economy.

"This event will create widespread awareness among the general public about this all-important change to the Internet," Shawn Rogers, product marketing manager at ZyXEL Communications, told TechNewsWorld. "It will also allow Web companies to test their internal hardware and software IPv6 implementations."

Out of the Lab

Led by the Internet Society and content delivery firms Akamai and Limelight Networks, World IPv6 Day participants will enable the new protocol for 24 hours.

"2011 is a pivotal year in IPv6 deployment," said the Internet Society's chief Internet technology officer Leslie Daigle. "By providing an opportunity for the Internet industry to collaborate to test IPv6 readiness, we expect to lay the groundwork for large-scale IPv6 adoption."

While gimmicky, a global IPv6 day also has a pragmatic function -- getting all the players on the world stage together for a seamless excursion.

The big day should provide "initiative for the industry to move towards IPv6, with a real tangible date, by showing that IPv6 is being taken seriously by leading website operators," Yahoo IPv6 evangelist Jason Fesler told TechNewsWorld. "This 24-hour period will help all parties get real data, as compared to the lab."

Old Man Protocol

Google guru and TCP/IP co-inventor Vint Cerf likens the present system to a telephone network "originally designed with a limited number of telephone numbers, and we're soon going to run out."

IPv4 has approximately 4 billion IP addresses. IPv6 will provide well over 4 billion more.

Nonetheless, IPv6 is already an old man in Internet years, having been designed in the late 1990s. Since then, the Internet's complexity has vastly increased, leaving few content and service providers ready for the big change.

"While most host and router vendors have had IPv6 capabilities in their products for a long time, the lack of IPv6-enabled content and services on the Internet has limited the amount of real end-to-end operational experience with IPv6-enabled services," said Doug Montgomery, who manages the Internet and Scalable Systems Research Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

NIST just published Guidelines for the Secure Deployment of Ipv6, a guide to help deploy the next-generation Internet protocol securely, NIST public affairs specialist Evelyn Brown told TechNewsWorld.

Quick Fixes

With IPv6 poised to makes its debut in a more complex world comes increased potential for problems that World IPv6 Day service providers hope to catch and fix quickly.

"We expect no service interruption for most users, but we are aware that roughly 0.05 percent of users, in their current configuration, may have difficulties," Yahoo's Fesler explained. "This test day will help those users understand they may need to seek assistance, which will be critical for major websites to later offer IPv6 services on more than a day-long basis."

As websites switch to the new Internet address protocol, other challenges may involve updates in both hardware and software, Fesler said. "In hardware, routers will need to be provisioned with IPv6, which in some cases may mean replacement. In software, most modern Web servers have supported IPv6 for a long time. Other processes, such as log analysis and metrics, may require updating."

Itself preparing for the big switch, the federal government will be watching, NIST's Montgomery told TechNewsWorld.

"With an Office of Management and Budget mandate to enable IPv6 at all federal public services by 2012," he said, "activities like World IPv6 Day will serve as important tests of the rest of the infrastructure, and ensure that the public will be able to exploit IPv6-enabled federal services once deployed."

"Moving towards IPv6 now will help the Internet maintain current performance, without the penalties of trying to work around the IPv4 shortage," Yahoo's Fesler added.

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