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IPv6 traffic levels surged over the last 12 months, with the 15-fold increase down to just one application and one ISP, according to a study by Arbor Networks.

Support for IPv6 in µTorrent version 1.8, a version of the world's most popular BitTorrent client released in August 2008, had a huge effect.

"The introduction of IPv6 P2P succeeded where most previous IPv6 inducement efforts had failed (i.e. liberal peering, high quality IPv6 porn, IPv6 ASCII animation of Star Wars, etc.)," writes Arbor Networks researcher Craig Labovitz. "In the space of ten months µTorrent helped drive IPv6 traffic from 0.002 per cent to 0.03 per cent of all internet traffic (a dramatic 15x jump)."

Another IPv6 traffic increase came in April 2009, when Hurricane Electric introduced a global Teredo relay service. Hurricane Electric lit up 14 Teredo relays in Seattle, Fremont, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, New York, Ashburn, Miami, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. Teredo tunneling is a protocol for passing IPv6 data packets through network address translation devices.

Arbor's IPv6 traffic diagram shows an increase from 0.02 per cent to between 0.04 and 0.03 per cent of IPv6 traffic after introduction of Hurricane's service. IPv6 connectivity across the net has historically been useless. The introduction of Hurricane's service goes some way towards addressing an entrenched problem that resulted in inefficient routing and overall lack of coordination between Teredo and 6to4 relay providers that added latency, loss and jitter to IPv6 traffic, Arbor explains.

The IPv6 study compiled by Arbor uses traffic statistics from 110 ISPs. Only six ISPs out of Arbor's 110 have native IPv6 enabled. Because of this limitation, Arbor's data includes only IPv6 traffic through Teredo and 6to4 tunnels.

A similar 2008 IPv6 study by Arbor was criticised for underestimating IPv6 traffic. Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) switch statistics showed a Gigabit or more of IPv6 traffic were cited by critics of Arbor's figures. However a July 2009 news server outage support Arbor's theory that AMS-IX IPv6 traffic was largely made up of file sharing through the free AMS-IX based IPv6 news servers and therefore not representative of the internet as a whole.

IPv6, the next generation internet protocol, brings a vastly expanded address space along with security and mobility refinements. Uptake has been slow despite predictions that a greater number of internet-connected devices and expansion of the net into countries such as China would result in IPv4 numbers getting used up. The widespread use of network address translation (NAT) technology has prevented IPv4 address exhaustion from becoming a pressing problem and the interweb has continued much as before.

Cutting-edge technology firms, such as Cisco and Google, have been big supporters of the technology, but mainstream users have stayed clear of it because of the lack of a clear business need for the technology. ®

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