The move to IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) has begun, and more countries are readying themselves to increase IPv6 traffic worldwide. With the growing number of devices connected to the Internet—such as smart cars, smart homes and even smart cities—and with the pool of available IPv4 addresses quickly running out, space has become a more important issue than ever. The added complexity of using NAT (network address translation) to act as a facilitator between IPv4 and IPv6 hardware across networks makes the job tougher.
Companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are slowly adapting to IPv6. But it will take time for all businesses to make the move seamlessly.
Challenges of Adapting to IPv6
Many debates are exploring what’s best for corporations concerning IPv4 versus IPv6. Most of them center on the different network needs. Most technology, however, works the same in both versions. The most prominent concern is security; the consensus therefore leans toward IPv6, as that protocol covers security without requiring NAT. Most security issues relate to the individual hardware, not the protocol. Although most people are for IPv6, they also realize IPv4 has gone through the discovery and repair of vulnerabilities that IPv6 has yet to do. This process takes time. Ultimately, both protocols have their own security issues and will continue to present challenges.
Even beyond security are plenty more challenges. Selling the concept to businesses, for example, remains the greatest barrier to IPv6 adoption.
Selling the Concept
Not everyone in a business is necessarily inclined to immediately adapt to a whole new communications protocol. They may have concerns that must be addressed. Also, since the business may have to run IPv6 along with IPv4 without replacing the entire network in one shot, day-to-day operational costs would increase.
To move a smoothly running operation from IPv4 to IPv6, a company must audit, review, upgrade, reconfigure and test its entire technology infrastructure. Everything from routers and servers to smartphones, PCs, laptops and other network-connected devices would require an upgrade to make the shift. Even the way a business runs a process and establishes policies will have to change. Moreover, planning will have to be detailed to ensure everyone, across departments, is working toward the same goal.
Time and Cost
Businesses that operate large networks on IPv4 could take years to complete this entire process. And given the nature and complexity of the adoption process, it involves a number of costs. Apart from the considerable expenses of upgrading hardware and software is a direct cost to the company in time to make the transfer, both for planning and execution.
Any transition is prone to risk and takes time. It can also be highly error prone until people are used to the new system and how it runs. Therefore, training of the technical team, which will be in charge of the transition, becomes paramount to avoid security lapses, system downtime and a network that runs in a complicated and haphazard manner—especially if both IPv4 and IPv6 run concurrently.
When the transition takes place, network-connected devices may need a dual-stack configuration: that is, both an IPv4 address and an IPv6 address. Older devices that lack support for an IPv6 address could create network-communication issues and eventually become a liability.
Where Is IPv6 Today?
You probably don’t realize that over nine million domains and over 20% of networks already use IPv6 connectivity. Many companies, such as Comcast, Verizon and other cellular-service providers, employ IPv6 internally and externally for their users.
According to Google, 37 countries route more than 5% of their traffic through IPv6. Japan has already moved all three of its major mobile networks, and India’s deployment has exceeded 20%. According to the IPv4 Market Group, 2019 should see the user interface to jump to over 50% IPv6 worldwide. Exact numbers are difficult to determine, since the data is scattered.
Google, Akamai and APNIC each publish their measurements of IPv6 traffic. The methods and results differ, with Google looking at cache and search-engine results, Akamai looking at TCP sessions, and APNIC inserting web objects in online ads. Yet each approach still quantifies IPv4 or IPv6 behaviors and preferences. RIPE NCC makes different measurements through visualization statistics. IPv6 has been in the works for years, but many companies are simply unprepared to make it a reality.
What About Businesses that Can’t Adapt Immediately?
For businesses that can’t switch immediately, IPv4 addresses are still available through the transfer market. One approach is STLS (Specified Transfer Listing Service), a service that ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) offers to match preapproved buyers with preapproved sellers. Another option is to hire an IPv4 broker that’s registered as an STLS facilitator. A third way is for businesses to handle the matter themselves by submitting a transfer request to ARIN. But legal formalities make that process more complicated and time consuming than the alternatives. In this scenario, hiring a competent broker that has relevant experience and the right contacts with companies offering unused, clean and verified blocks of IPv4 space can prove to be practical and cost effective.
Leading article image courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Travis Nuckolls.
About the Author
Marc Spindel is a contributor with IPv4 Brokers.