Interest in IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, is exploding among U.S. CIOs, as news of the rapid depletion of IP addresses using the current standard – known as IPv4 – reaches corporate IT departments.
Verizon Business says its largest corporate customers are flooding the carrier with questions about IPv6 and how it will impact their networks.
"We are receiving close to five or six times more questions and queries from our customers about IPv6 today vs. a year ago," says William Schmidlapp, senior consultant for product marketing at Verizon Business. "The majority of questions we are getting are from North American companies…Our inquiries have been across all verticals."
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices: 2 to the 128th power.
Around 94.5% of IPv4 address space has been allocated as of Sept. 3, 2010, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which delegates blocks of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to service providers and other network operators in North America. Experts say the remaining IPv4 addresses could be depleted as early as December.
CIOs are asking Verizon Business about how to maintain end-to-end connectivity across the Internet as some users upgrade to IPv6 and others remain on IPv4. They also are concerned about the latest mobile devices – such as Verizon's own LTE handsets – which must support IPv6. And they're asking how to ensure that their primary applications – whether commercial or home-grown – will support IPv6 traffic.
"The increased press…about IPv4 exhaustion is now hitting CIOs' desks, and CIOs are asking their IT departments and their infrastructure partners about how this will affect the business," Schmidlapp says. "This has really garnered a lot of conversations from our customers."
In response to all the queries, Verizon Business this week issued tips for government and industry CIOs about how to transition to IPv6.
"We are telling our customers that the timeframe to get ready for IPv6 is now," Schmidlapp says. "With the uncertainty of when IPv4 depletion is going to occur…customers need to be ready for IPv6 sooner rather than later."
Verizon says it is trying to get the word out to U.S. corporations and government agencies that IPv6 is not as expensive or as daunting a technical challenge as some CIOs fear. Google, for example, has said that it took a small team of engineers about 18 months to IPv6 enable most of its network services.
"It's a matter of educating CIOs and getting them past the worry that they have to do a multi-million dollar upgrade to forklift their infrastructure to IPv6," Schmidlapp says. "We're trying to give them a common sense approach on what they need to do from an IPv6 perspective…They need to have a migration path ready so when their CEO or C-level executive wants to use the latest and greatest cell phone, they will still get connectivity to all of their applications."
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