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Ready or not, IPv6 is coming

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A recent survey of ISPs, enterprises and network equipment vendors by the Internet Society (ISOC) found that the majority reckoned there were "no concrete business drivers for IPv6". Experts predict that the internet will run out of new IPv4 addresses within two years, but the majority of ISOC members responded that they would simply increase their use of network address translation (NAT) technology when the stocks of IPv4 addresses run out.

Some think they might be able to re-engineer their networks through renumbering but only two respondents suggested they would use IPv6 to address the problems of IPv4 address exhaustion.

When asked about what the business drivers towards IPv6 might be, the responses suggest a matter of adapting to the latest fashions rather than anything more concrete. "While there were no concrete business drivers for IPv6, the technology was being driven by a general perception about customer demand and a need to be prepared for the next large technology step in the evolution of the internet," ISOC reports.

Many of the respondents expected IPv4 and IPv6 networks to co-exist for some years. Converting applications running on IPv4 to run over IPv6 networks, rather than problems with rolling out IPv6 networks seemed the represent the greatest challenge to migration.

"While respondents who had begun IPv6 deployment reported gaps in support for IPv6 among tools and applications, they found the process of deploying IPv6 relatively straightforward," ISOC's report notes.

The anonymous survey of ISOC's 90 members covers some heavy hitters, but caution ought to be exercised before reading too much into its conclusions, particularly when some questions only elicited responses from 22 respondents. A more detailed summary of the findings from ISOC's survey can be found here.

Testing times

Organisations such as the US Department of Defense were early adopters of IPv6. News came out a few days ago of the Pentagon scrapping testing for whether kit was compatible with IPv6, but this was only to introduce a more comprehensive testing programme, starting in April, to evaluate software and hardware for interoperability more generally. Testing for compliance to IPv6 remains within a more encompassing testing regime, administered by the Defence Information Systems Agency (DISA), Network World reports.

In the meantime specialist IPv6 compatibility testing is carrying on, with an announcement last week that firewalls from Juniper Networks passed DISA's IPv6-compatible testing process.

To IP or not to IP

IPv6 was established as a replacement standard for the current generation of Internet Protocol, IPv4, by the IETF in 1995. IPv4 has a maximum address space of 4.3bn addresses, which engineers foresaw might run out 14 years ago, at the dawn of the interweb. IPv6 has a much larger address space, thanks to the use of 128-bit addresses, compared to the 32-bit address space of IPv4.

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