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Where Are We With IPv6?

In June of this year, on World IPv6 Day, organisations around the world offered their content over IPv6 for a 24-hour period. The aim was to motivate organisations across the industry - Internet service providers, hardware makers, operating system vendors and web companies - to prepare their services for IPv6. It was also a chance to identify and rectify any problem areas. The day went, broadly speaking, without a hitch and many participants left IPv6 switched on, confirming what we all expected; IPv6 works and adopting IPv6 is not something to be feared.

As many people will know, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocated the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses equally between the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), the RIPE NCC, APNIC, AfriNIC, LACNIC and ARIN, back in February.

In April, APNIC, the RIR for the Asia Pacific region announced that it had depleted its store of IPv4 addresses, making it the first RIR to do so. This was expected due to the fast rate of technological expansion in the region. Out of necessity, the region has also led the way in IPv6 adoption.

Since World IPv6 Day, the RIPE NCC has allocated 11.25 million IPv4 addresses in the region and currently has around 65 million remaining. While this may seem like a large number, at the current rate of allocation, IPv4 resources for the region is forecast to be fully depleted by the first half of 2012.

LACNIC, APNIC and ARIN are in a similar situation to the RIPE NCC, expecting to hit 0% in the next year or so, with AfriNIC predicted to be the last RIR to run-out somewhere around 2015. There are around 4.2 billion (or 232) IPv4 addresses in existence; in comparison the number of IPv6 addresses available is 2128, a number so large it is hoped we will never face exhaustion again.

World IPv6 Day proved that IPv6 works, but the issue we face is that IPv4 and IPv6 is not compatible. Therefore, it is currently necessary to dual stack, running IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time, to ensure that users can access all content and devices on the Internet. While this offers a solution for now, the future aim should be to drive the adoption of native IPv6 networks.

It's also vital that manufacturers, from smartphones to white goods and automotive, enable IPv6 capabilities in their products. If manufacturers fail to act now, in the coming years consumers could be at the receiving end of expensive network complexities, as network providers will inevitably relay huge upgrade costs back to the consumer.

Device manufacturers and network providers need to be working together to make sure they are future proofing their equipment by making it IPv6-ready. Incremental and planned upgrades are far more cost-effective than being backed into a corner, forced to spend just to keep consumers happy.

IPv6 adoption will not be a "wholesale" changeover. It is a gradual process which began many years ago. Now we need to be sure that progress in to IPv6 deployment is being made because as the forecasts show, we won't be able to rely on just IPv4 for much longer.