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IPv6 for the Masses

As the first semester of 2010 comes to a close, the IPv4 address pool has dropped to 6%. Another year and we will probably celebrate (mourn?) the end of the IANA IPv4 pool. As Vint Cerf commented on the topic of depletion in an e-mail to Bob Hinden: ‘Sic transit Gloria Mundi’.

The view of an abyss or the fear of judgment day always focuses attention and as a result IPv6 adoption is finally picking up speed. The Google invitational IPv6 Conference in Mountain View clearly illustrated the point. On the transport side tier1 ISP’s have their networks very much ready for the anticipated traffic surge while a rapidly increasing number of tier2 ISP’s upgrade their upstream connectivity to dual stack. On the content side, kudos undoubtedly go to Google who progressively made its content accessible in IPv6 including Youtube since February. Needless to say that this created a rather noticeable increase in IPv6 traffic. Some major content providers such as Yahoo and Facebook are also coming along. It can be easily assumed that if the top 10 of the Alexa 500 most popular websites are IPv6 accessible the long tail will follow. The Content Distribution Networks remain relatively timid with the exception of Limelight and Netflix. Here lies an opportunity for the early movers; the growing IPv6 content volumes are theirs to gain. One gaping hole remains the lack of adequate support in some major load balancing products but alternatives are available on the market.

The other front which has been creating a persistent concern is CPE, Customer Premise Equipment. It was refreshing to hear D-Link say that 5 million of their boxes shipped are IPv6-ready. Installed bases of ADSL and Cable modems bases have workaround mechanisms and new ones being installed are IPv6 ready. Outstanding issues often mentioned by everybody in the ecosystem remain lack of training of technical and support staff and the upgrade of back-office systems as well for IT staff to upgrade DNS systems, websites and e-mail systems. A field of opportunities for consulting firms as this becomes more pressing.

While all these activities are underway to forklift the ‘old internet’, the mobile broadband internet continues to grow all around it. The iPhone, iPad and other Androids have ushered the need for true Mobile Broadband. This in turn forces the carriers to accelerate their LTE plans ever more. As of june 7th the GSMA counted 80 operators in 33 countries with firm commitments, up from 64 just two months ago. In the meantime, a further 30 operators are currently in trial mode for LTE making for a total of 110 operators in 44 countries. The ball is undeniably rolling faster and faster.

Last weeks’ Google IPv6 gathering saw presentations by Verizon and T-Mobile which perfectly illustrated the immediate necessity of IPv6 in the mobile world. Verizon will offer its first IPv6 phones in 2011. If one considers that some market researchers project that the sales of smartphones including iPad and iPadlike devices could surpass ‘traditional’ devices, meaning desktops and laptops, within two or three years, we should be in for most interesting times indeed.

It is only fitting that Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, mentioned in his address at the GSM World Congress in Barcelona back in February that support of mobility is a priority in all Google product development.

IPv6 for the masses, masses of IPv6 addresses is within sight.

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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