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World IPv6 Launch: Now What?

World IPv6 Launch kicked off 6 June 2012 at 00:00 UTC. On this day, multitudes of website operators, network operators and home router vendors from all over the world have joined thousands of companies and millions of websites in permanently enabling the next generation Internet. They have done this by turning IPv6 support on by default in (at least some of) their products and services. This is a major milestone in the history of the Internet. This event officially signals to the entire world that from now on being “on the Internet” means IPv4 and IPv6 capability and connectivity. This is momentous in that IPv6 is required for the continued growth of the Internet, Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the Internet) explains further:

So great, we launched IPv6 and now we’re good, right?

Well, not quite. There are still many, many IPv6 stragglers within the Internet ecosystem. Lots of Internet service providers, content providers, software vendors, network equipment vendors and consumer electronics manufacturers still do not have full IPv6 support enabled by default in all of the products and services they offer. This even includes many of the World IPv6 Launch participants. There are even folks out there (albeit a shrinking number) who haven’t heard of IPv6 or deny its necessity. In the animal kingdom, these are the ostriches. Now, I’m not talking about Joe Six-Pack and his mom. Average end-users do not need to know anything about IPv6, just like they know nothing about IPv4 and couldn’t tell you what utility frequency the electric power pumped into their house is using. Joe and his mom just need the Internet to work. It’s up to those that make a living from it to ensure that it does.

Technical managers, IT departments, and network engineers who don’t have a basic understanding of IPv6 today are behind.

Companies that sell IP enabled products or services without full IPv6 support today are behind.

Organizations that rely on the Internet in any way and don’t have an IPv6 deployment plan in place today are behind.

For all of the organizations and individuals who have fallen behind, hopefully World IPv6 Launch is a wake up call that you will heed.

Now What?

So now what? What should you be doing to ensure that your career, your cause or your business is not impacted by the launch of IPv6? Well, that depends:

If you are a business that sells an Internet enabled device (computer, tablet, smart phone, smart TV, router, switch, firewall, game console, software application, coffee maker, etc., etc.) or service (network connectivity, web content, cloud services, e-commerce, web hosting, etc., etc.) and you do not have full IPv6 support across your entire product line: Do it! Note well: Full IPv6 support means complete feature parity with your IPv4 offering. Not some-features-work, not everything-except-management; it has to ALL work. Once you have IPv6 support built in and enabled by default, find some beta testers and work out the kinks. Then get it on the shelves. If you act fast enough, you may be able to position your IPv6 support as a competitive differentiation. If not, you may find your products and/or services becoming obsolete.

If you are an organization (for-profit, not-for-profit, academic, NGO, etc., etc.) that relies on the Internet for any part of your operations (communication, advertisement, sales, data storage, research, computation, etc., etc.) you need to enable IPv6 support on all public facing services, now. Even if it’s just a single static website, if it doesn’t do IPv6 it’s no longer viewable from the entire Internet. Next, do not purchase any networking gear that does not fully support IPv6 (full feature parity with IPv4). Even if you think you have enough IPv4 addresses, the rest of the world does not. Your customers, business partners, vendors, and others are facing the eminent exhaustion of free IPv4 addresses even if you’re not. That means that in order to communicate directly with them; you need IPv6. Yes, various address sharing technologies (CGN) will very likely extend the useful lifetime of IPv4 but this is not without a cost. Address multiplexing, of any flavor, breaks the end-to-end principle and degrades the user experience. IPv6 connectivity is the only solution to IPv4 address exhaustion and is required to participate in the Internet from this day on.

If you are an individual who designs, operates, manages, troubleshoots, or otherwise works on Internet or other network connections and you don’t understand IPv6 today; you have failed. There is hope however. Get on the ball now and you can still catch up. Here are some IPv6 resources to get you started: ISOC’s IPv6 FAQ, AFRINIC’s IPv6 Virtual Lab and IPv6 Resource Center, APNIC’s IPv6 Program, ARIN’s IPv6 Wiki, LACNIC’s IPv6 Information Center, RIPE NCC’s IPv6 Act Now, Hurricane Electric’s IPv6 Certification Program, and finally my “Introducing IPv6” series.

By Chris Grundemann, Creative|Technologist

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