Too soon to report any results, but IPv6 Launch Day kicked off globally at 12:01 a.m. (Greenwich mean time), and it includes the four most visited Web sites in the world – Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo! – as well as home router manufacturers and ISPs in more than 100 countries (for more information, click here and click here).

Time is running out for IPv4, which has approximately 4 billion IP addresses (the sequence of numbers assigned to each Internet-connected device).

“The explosion in the number of people, devices and Web services on the Internet means that IPv4 is running out of space,” the Internet Society says. “IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol which provides more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses, will connect the billions of people not connected today and will help ensure the Internet can continue its current growth rate indefinitely.”

By making IPv6 the “new normal,” the industry will enable millions of end users to enjoy its benefits without having to do anything themselves. Comments Pankaj Patel, senior vice president/Engineering and GM/Service Provider Business at Cisco, "The Internet has fueled remarkable economic growth and innovation that would have never happened without a network. Today, we face an explosion of connected devices moving data and content, especially video, and of applications and services coming from the Cloud. IPv6 enables the network — the platform on which innovation is built — to scale and make more growth more possible, today and into the future."

The World IPv6 Launch is organized by the Internet Society as part of its mission to ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible for everyone – including the other five billion people not yet connected to the Internet.

"The support of IPv6 from these thousands of organizations delivers a critical message to the world: IPv6 is not just a ‘nice to have’; it is ready for business today and will very soon be a ‘must have,’" says Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer at the Internet Society. "We believe that the commitment of these companies to deploy IPv6 will ensure that they remain industry leaders. Any company wishing to be effective in the new Internet should do the same."

What To Expect

The World IPv6 Day last year was a 24-hour test that focused on Web sites (for more information, click here). This year, World IPv6 Launch is a permanent commitment across the Internet industry, including ISPs and home networking equipment manufacturers around the world that are laying the foundation to accelerate the deployment of IPv6 across the global Internet.

According to the Internet Society, major Web sites are enabling IPv6 permanently starting today on their main Web sites. ISPs also will enable IPv6 across a “significant portion” of their current and new residential wireline subscribers. Home-networking-equipment manufacturers will enable IPv6 by default through their range of home-router products, and recent commitments to IPv6 by companies beyond their Web sites demonstrates a broader support of the new Internet protocol.

“We at Comcast take great pride in being an innovator and technical leader. As a result of our team’s hard work, enabling IPv6 in over a third of our network, I am happy to report that, by today, we have exceeded our goal of 1 percent of our customer base being enabled with IPv6 for World IPv6 Launch,” comments John Schanz, chief network officer at Comcast.

Why The Long Timeline?

Even though proponents have been pushing the transition to IPv6 for several years, only now has the take-up been put on the front burner. According to Mike Sapien, Ovum’s enterprise telecom analyst, “The proliferation of devices, mobile access to resources and B2C applications are driving customers to support IPv6. In addition, this isn’t really a complete migration – it is more of a dual-support capability that will be enabled for many years to come. Ovum research, for an upcoming IPv6 report, has revealed that B2C applications are one of the common drivers for customers, including service providers, moving to IPv6.”

He continues, “Government regulations will also drive this support. We are increasingly seeing government promoting deployment of IPv6. This, combined with mobile device support and mobile access to Web resources, are the main drivers for most businesses. Customers will need to take a good inventory of their IT resources that are now IPv4, have a phased plan for dual IPv4/IPv6 support and implement this plan. This planning also needs to include third-party partners, resources and links that can be easily overlooked. Now is the time for customers to go beyond planning and get to the test and implement phase.”

Adds David Krozier, network infrastructure analyst at Ovum,"Verizon currently supports enterprise and government customers with native and tunneled IPv6 services. The Verizon LTE network is enabled for IPv6, and the company is testing IPv6 on its FiOS network. AT&T set a 2020 date for full IPv6 deployment and offers IPv6 commercial services on its U-verse network.”

“Comcast has turned up IPv6 services to more than 1 percent of its residential wireline subscribers, and Time Warner also offers IPv6 to residential subscribers,” he adds. “Around the globe, Internode (Australia) supports IPv6 services with a dual-stack network, and ISPs in Hong Kong as well as KDDI, XS4ALL and Free Telecom are all offering IPv6 connectivity."

New Tech, Old Gear

However, the major equipment hurdle to IPv6 deployment appears to be older customer premise equipment (CPE).

"Discussions with equipment vendors have convinced Ovum that implementing IPv6 is mainly a software or firmware issue for most network equipment, although older home residential gateways may require replacement,” Krozier points out. “Most recent vintage computers and servers are IPv6-ready. Microsoft Vista, Windows 7 and MAC OSX 10.7 all have IPv6 enabled by default.”

Computer users can connect here to test the IPv6 readiness of their computer systems. For mobile devices, the Android and Apple iOS operating systems enable IPv6 by default, so when IPv6 is enabled by carriers, in many cases, user’s equipment will just automatically connect to the Internet using IPv6.

For more background on the IPv6 Launch, click here.

(Editor’s note: A complete IPv6 industry update will be presented in the 3Q12 issue of Communications Technology magazine, available in late July.)

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