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IPv6: A Lost Decade?

A ‘decade from hell’, according to Times Magazine, a ‘dazing decade’ says Newsweek. In Copenhagen, at the Climate Change Conference, the World Meteorological Organization talked of the ‘hottest decade on record’. BusinessWeek characterized the decade as one of ‘innovation interrupted’. All this gloom made me wonder how to qualify our IPv6 decade? Most of Jordi Palet’s ten year old IPv6 status around the world [PDF] could have been written last month including quotes by our internet luminaries. A lost decade?

The early years were punctuated by the Tony Hain—Geoff Huston joust whether address exhaustion would be as soon as 2008 or as late as 2020 while others where dreaming of killer applications and associated riches. The burst of the internet and telecom bubbles dampened the early enthusiasm for a while as the internet wasn’t doubling every three months after all. It took some years to soak up the excess bandwidth. Research and Education networks like internet2 in the States and Canarie in Canada moved along pushing the IPv6 envelope becoming dual stack as early as 2002, but this did not propagate toward the edges. The problem was and still remains to a large degree that campuses and labs did not have immediate need or justification to follow. Some forward looking tier-1 internet traffic carriers started to include IPv6 in their calls for tender as part of the regular upgrade cycle but here also IPv6 adoption did not propagate downward. The second half of the decade saw the internet continuing to grow more than 50% yearly and they got rewarded as their network cores became dual stack ready riding the coattails of the upgrade cycle. Fifty plus percent annual growth does not make a lost decade.

What was overlooked, like so often, is that progress depends on the confluence of advances on several technology fronts and on reaching critical masses of users. Parallel progress in broadband access deployment, in processing power and in storage combined with growing affordability catalyzed dematerialization of the distribution of news, libraries, music and video. Even shopping and even some face to face meetings were affected. Licking the wounds after the telecom bubble, the wisdom of “build and they will come” was, for a time, dubious. However, the logjams of bandwidth, processing power and storage bottlenecks broke with some synchronicity and the time had come for bandwidth gobblers like Youtube, Hulu and the Social Networking Commons to blossom. Google and Yahoo made these masses of information searchable by humans and cashed in on the advertising dollars flowing to the internet.

Telecom highlights of the last decade? The bubble, the world cutting the umbilical cord going mobile, prevalence of high speed internet access, the ascent of Google, the Apple iPhone.

The next decade? What about six hundred million FTTx subscribers, six billion humans with mobile communicating smart devices, sixty billion communicating ‘things’. IPv6 is prevalent by 2016 and we finally write about something else. Abundance of IP addresses pushes virtualization further; virtual servers live in virtual clouds which follow the sun and winds and circle the earth on an eternal quest for the most energy and cost efficient physical datacenters.

The 5,000th exoplanet will be catalogued (415 are known today) and indisputable evidence for extraterrestrial life will be found.

No decade has ever been lost, evolution just does not progress in a linear fashion. Imagine if we had written a summary of the first decade of the century in late December 1909. The first ten years were extraordinary while the following ten would really become a ‘‘decade of hell’’ for tens of millions who happily celebrated New Year 1910. In retrospect our contemporary last decade was not that bad after all.

By Yves Poppe, Director, Business Development IP Strategy at Tata Communications

(Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these articles are solely those of the author and are not in any way attributable to nor reflect any existing or planned official policy or position of his employer in respect thereto.)

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Sad but true in many respects. Jason Livingood  –  Dec 29, 2009 1:58 PM

Sad but true in many respects.  If the core has been mostly becoming dual-stack then the next frontier will be pushing this out to the mass of end users.

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