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From IPv6 Day to IPv6 Everyday

Quite a number of articles and blogs including one I contributed [PDF] had IPv6 haruspices dissect the entrails and divine the future of the internet in the wake of the june 8th IPv6 World Day. It came and went with some trepidation, the internet did not go comatose and some marveled at and reported on traffic peaks they witnessed.

Preparation of a keynote [PDF] for the Gogonet Live conference in San Jose, provided me the opportunity to have a look at how some variables evolved since June including the ‘brokenness’ issue, the penetration speed of mobile broadband and its retinue of smart phones and tablets as well as the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of older CPE equipment. A glimpse at the evolution of IPv6 traffic over the intervening semester, at least from the perspective of a global tier-1 wholesale network such as AS6453, would give some quantitative underpinning.

We should remember that the key proponents of IPv6 day were major content providers and hosters including Google, Yahoo, Akamai, Limelight and Facebook. A major concern of theirs was the extent and degree of ‘brokenness’ whereby operating system or configuration problems in a dual stack environment would create unbearable delays or even time-outs for users whose devices would try to reach the destination in IPv6, then fall back to IPv4 if no IPv6 path or address was found. Even a small percentage of brokenness represents unacceptable large numbers of potentially unhappy users. Good progress was announced at the Quebec City IETF meeting late july when Google’s Lorenzo Colliti showed brokenness down considerably thanks to fixes in Chrome, Firefox 7 and Apple Lion. An interesting observation he made also was that 50% of the brokenness was attributable to five major eyeball AS’es. In his presentation, Facebook’s Donn Lee put the brokenness down to around 0.02% with a downward trend.

The key question is what percentage of brokenness is acceptable to the major content providers. There is growing talk and momentum for an IPv6 week tentatively set for june 2012. If all goes well, this could be when the content providers will leave IPv6 accessibility on.

This would likely result in a rather fast and massive IPv6 traffic growth considering the growing traffic contribution by the top tier content and network providers. In a presentation at a Global Peering Forum meeting, Arbor reported that about 40% of the inter-domain internet traffic is handled by the top 10 ASN’S and that around 200 companies generate more than 50% of the world’s internet traffic. Even more surprising to hear was that, despite all the talk of a multi-polar internet, the US traffic is still growing as a weighted share of global internet traffic and now stands at more than 50%. Furthermore the US is leading the world in LTE deployment with Verizon clearly carrying the torch. Informa expects 6.4 million LTE subscriptions worldwide by end 2011 with Verizon representing 4 million of those. This rapid adoption of mobile broadband in the US is likely to further compound the US weight in global traffic, at least over a three year horizon. Smart phones grew to more than 25% of all cell phones sold worldwide with Gartner reporting that in Q3 of this year, 115 million smart phones were sold worldwide, up 42% year over year, out of a total of 440.5 mobile devices sold this same quarter.

From the AS6453 global network perspective, we saw the proportion of customer AS networks connecting in dual stack rise to more than 50%, up from 38% late 2010. This reflects the fact that a growing number of eyeball networks are activating IPv6 connectivity allowing the new address format to percolate deeper throughout the whole internet fabric.

What might surprise some is the continuing steady growth of IPv6 traffic with the june peaks fading in the rearview mirror. A sizeable traffic bulge was even observed in October when a major eyeball network opened the gates for a while, presumably for a serious shake-out. This allows for some interesting extrapolations of IPv6 traffic growth in the coming year.

Global IPv6 traffic grows at a slow but steady pace; the June 8th peak is now background noise and some major players are kicking the IPv6 tires. Note that these figures represent only a fraction of the overall Pv4 plus IPv6 traffic of AS6453 derived from probes on a selected number of network points.

The last mile and CPE equipment were always considered a major impediment to IPv6 adoption but this might also prove to be more transient than assumed. It is encouraging when the NCTA states in a letter [PDF] to the FCC that by end of this year, DOCSIS3.0 will be available to 77% of US homes. Comcast is now making considerable progress with CPE level work around mechanisms following in the steps of Free in France who pioneered the use of 6rd, making them the current world leader in IPv6 traffic.

As this is, yet again, the time of the year to make educated traffic and revenue predictions and forecasts, I would suggest to ponder, whether a year from now, in december 2012, the proportion of all users accessing www.google.com in IPv6 (if it had an IPv6 address), will be: a) less than 0.8% b) between 0.8% and 2.4% c) between 2.4+ % and 4% d) more than 4%. Hint: the value currently stands at 0.39% and can be tracked on the Google IPv6 statistics site.

Wishing you all happy holidays and a 2012 with its fair share of points tipping in the directions you favor.

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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