Enterprises Ready to Shake Out Some IPv6 Bugs With Worldwide Test

On June 8, major enterprises with a presence on the Internet such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Akamai and several United States government agencies will be among the organizations providing their content over both IPv4 and IPv6.

The occasion: June 8 is World IPv6 Day.

IPv4 is the existing Internet protocol; IPv6 is its successor. As the number of Internet users and devices has grown, the world has grown short on IPv4 addresses and is moving to IPv6, a process that’s expected to take 10 to 15 years at least.

So what’s the hurry?

“IPv6 World days are an excellent way to collect data,” Timothy Winters, senior manager at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), told TechNewsWorld.

“This event will help find potential issues so that the community can work on IPv6 fixes to support a full-fledged IPv6 deployment,” Winters elaborated.

Even though that deployment might not actually arrive for years, practice rounds are already starting.

“People tend to put off doing things until the very end,” remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“We’re talking about putting everything from washing machines to your kitchen stoves on the Internet, so the speed of Web acceptance is increasing dramatically, and there may be less time than you think,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

About IPv6 Day

The Internet Society, which is organizing World IPv6 Day, describes it as a 24-hour test flight during which major organizations will offer content over both IPv4 and IPv6.

Its plan is to motivate organizations across the industry, from Internet service providers to hardware makers to operating system vendors to Web companies, to prepare their services for IPv6.

World IPv6 Day will also help expose potential issues involved with moving to IPv6, under controlled conditions so they can be addressed as soon as possible.

On its website, the Internet Society lists a test that organizations can take to find out their readiness for IPv6.

The organization estimates that about 0.05 percent of users may experience problems such as impaired access to participating websites during World IPv6 Day, possibly because of misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment.

IPv6 provides over 4 billion times more addresses than IPv4 does, the Internet Society claims.

“Like anything else, moving from one protocol to another is going to be painful because old addresses will need to be changed out, and that means a series of tests will be required to make sure things will work during the changeover,” Enderle said.

The Internet Society did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Some of the IPv6 Day Players

Apart from the private sector companies participating in World IPv6 Day, several U.S. federal government agencies are also taking part, according to Cisco.

These include the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the National Library of Medicine and the National Technical Information Service.

That participation may be necessary — the Internet backbone routers for the U.S. federal government have implemented IPv6, and the routers were tested to ensure they could run the new protocol, but they weren’t mandated to keep IPv6 up and running, Guy Snyder, ICSA Labs Secure Communications Program Manager, told TechNewsWorld in a previous interview.

The Need for Testing

The Internet Society says one of the reasons for holding World IPv6 Day is to get industry members to ensure their products are compatible with the new protocol.

“The problem is that everybody’s pretty busy, and, unless they’re pushed to do the testing, the very people who need to conduct this test may not do so,” Enderle said. “But unless we go through a lot of tests like this, we’ll see problems.”

Many vendors of hardware haven’t ensured their products are IPv6-ready yet, Snyder said.

IPv6 Day’s Impact on Users

Only about 0.05 percent of users will be impacted, according to the Internet Society’s estimates.

Participants in the event will provide tools to detect problems and offer suggested fixes ahead of the trial.

Users who still experience connectivity issues when visiting participating websites can disable IPv6 or ask their ISPs to help fix the problem, the Internet Society’s FAQs page states.

However, since the participants in the event will be running both IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously, chances are that few users will have a problem.

One unexpected impact of IPv6 on users will be a potential loss of privacy. IPv6 gives each device its own IP address, meaning that marketers and advertisers will be able to target consumers precisely and might be able to gather personal information about consumers from their devices.

“This is why you want people to get involved so that, before there’s a crisis, you get things settled,” Enderle stated.

“Otherwise, suddenly you’re ready to roll things out and the government takes action against you and you’ll be in full crisis mode,” he said.

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