Internet industry reports progress on IPv6, but work remains

One-year anniversary of World IPv6 Launch Day

One year after the World IPv6 Launch Day, the Internet industry has reported steady progress moving users around the world to the new Internet Protocol version. However, Australia continues to lag behind other companies in IPv6 uptake, industry figures told Computerworld Australia.

IPv6 provides about 340 undecillion IP addresses, compared to 4 billion addresses under IPv4. As the number of Internet-connected devices has grown, exhaustion of IPv4 addresses has necessitated the adoption of IPv6.

One year after the World IPv6 Launch on 6 June 2012, the number of IPv6-connected users worldwide has doubled, according to the Internet Society, which organised the event. It was the third straight year IPv6 use doubled. If the trend continues, more than half of Internet users will be IPv6 connected in six years, it said.

Akamai, which runs one of the world’s largest content delivery networks (CDN), reported that it receives about 10 billion global requests per day over IPv6 – 250 per cent more than the daily rate 12 months ago.

Internode, the only Australian ISP to participate in World IPv6 Day, reported that 10 per cent of its customers now use IPv6 to access the Internet, up from 2 per cent on the day of the event. That’s an increase of 400 per cent over the 12 months.

However, the Internet Society of Australia has previously chronicled a crawling uptake of IPv6. Going into last year’s event, Australia was behind Azerbaijan and many Asian countries.

One year later, ISOC-AU president Narelle Clark said that while things have improved, she is “still disappointed by a lack of widespread take up.”

The Asia-Pacific region has exhausted its supply of IPv4 addresses, she said. “It’s now got to the point where addresses are being traded,” which is increasing the cost of businesses’ network operations, she said.

Internode has led the way among ISPs rolling out IPv6 services, she said. “The bigger ISPs have made good progress in the business front ... but as far as the consumer services go it’s still pretty patchy.” Meanwhile, the Australian government appears to be making progress “behind the scenes,” she said.

While in the past Clark has condemned industry finger-pointing as a major holdup for IPv6 adoption, she said industry players “are all being a little bit more circumspect on that front. There is less finger pointing because they do recognize they need to lift their games.”

Discussion around IPv6 is “much more well-informed than it has been in the past,” but more education is still needed to expedite adoption, she said.

Internode CTO John Lindsay said Australian businesses should ensure “that everything they do that’s new in their network is IPv6 compatible and they should let their networking systems staff turn IPv6 on.” Adopting IPv6 is not a switch to something “new and dangerous,” but rather something “old and necessary,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it’s a little bit like watching the flood waters rise around you and saying, ‘I’ll think about leaving my island when the water’s a bit higher,’ by which time it’s kind of too late.”

Akamai senior manager of Australasia, Ian Teague, said supporting IPv6 is “one of these things that needs to be done, it needs to be worked in the background. If you don’t do it, then it can sneak up on you and be a real problem.”

A government mandate could be one way to encourage change, he said. For example, the US has required all government agencies to have public-facing websites and email services available over IPv6.

IPv6 traffic has grown significantly in the past year, but it started from a “very low base,” said Teague.

“I think you’ll see that as all the connected devices ... start coming into play and when all the IPv4 addresses really do run out, any IPv4 hoarding that may have occurred will start to wane and we’ll suddenly see a big uptick in IPv6.”

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ISPs should continue “to keep a close eye on it at a grassroots to make sure that they if they see this uptick, they’re ready and have capacity plans in place.”

Lindsay said he doesn’t yet see a “crisis” in Australia, but has concerns about “sub-optimal” technological workarounds to IPv4 exhaustion such as carrier-grade NAT being used by Optus on its mobile network. The technology allows many customers to share a small number of IPv4 addresses.

IP address sharing can result in greater network congestion, said Lindsay, comparing the practice to an apartment building with a single street entrance. “In the morning and the evening, it’s a very busy place and sometimes you’ve got to wait in the queue to get out the door.”

IP address sharing enabled the recent unintentional blocking of 250,000 websites by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, said Clark. The ASIC used section 313 of the Telecommunications Act 10 times to block websites, but ended up unintentionally blocking thousands of others.

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