Enterprise IPv6 deployment – CIOs urged to take heed

Yesterday, over lunch, a 60-strong audience of largely private-sector Chief Information Officers and senior IT managers gathered in Auckland to hear about the critical importance of enterprise IPv6 deployment.

Sponsored by InternetNZ in conjunction with the New Zealand IPv6 Task Force, three expert speakers featured – Convenor of the New Zealand IPv6 Task Force Dr Murray Milner, InternetNZ technical policy advisor Dean Pemberton and REANNZ CIO Sam Sargeant – each of whom took to the subject-matter with gusto.

Milner began proceedings with a meaningful analysis of IPv6 and ‘what the problem is’. That problem, in a nutshell, is IPv4 address exhaustion and the fact that its replacement protocol – IPv6 – is not backwards compatible.

IPv4 is the addressing protocol that originated with the Internet. The number of IPv4 addresses, now exhausted, total only 4 billion – a paltry figure when one considers the press of humanity and astonishing growth of networked devices, especially mobile. One estimate suggests that by the year 2020 there could be 7 billion Internet users and 7 trillion devices. This emerging ‘Internet of Things’ will unquestionably be driven by IPv6 addressing.

In our now IPv4-scarce world there is a range of alternatives. For example, it is possible to buy IPv4 addresses on auction sites such as eBay. However, this starts to fragment address ranges and is not a sustainable option, says Milner. Another alternative is to stay with IPv4 and make use of NAT (Network Address Translation). NAT however comes with several fishooks, he cautions – including degraded network performance, scalability and cost.

These alternatives also do not take into account a more sobering reality – that three of the world’s largest-growing economies (China, India and Indonesia) are growing from very low to very large Internet penetration off the back of IPv6.

“As more entities and developing countries make use of IPv6-only addresses, innovation on the Internet will start to occur on the IPv6 Internet.”

This is not something that garden variety Internet users need lose sleep over, but enterprises must acquaint themselves with the issue. The only long-term sustainable solution for enterprise, says Milner, is IPv6 adoption.

Those enterprises without an IPv6 capability, warns Milner, risk missing out on business opportunities in these IPv6-only pockets and could even lose contact with customers and suppliers.

Pemberton followed up with an impassioned presentation, highlighting what he is seeing at a global level with IPv6 deployment. His messages were four-fold – IPv6 is real and here; IPv6 is essential for reaching the entire Internet; IPv6 will soon be the default training protocol and; if IPv6 is deployed correctly enterprises can minimise their investment.

The amount of IPv6 traffic on the Internet is growing day-by-day, increasingly being deployed on large-scale mobile networks and by content providers such as Google, Wikipedia, Akamai, Yahoo, Facebok and Verizon Wireless. Pemberton claims that these content providers are witnessing huge jumps in how much traffic is delivered over IPv6, with “exponential growth” at Google, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange regularly seeing “6-7 GBs of IPv6 traffic per second” and “a majority” of traffic at Louisiana State University now IPv6.

“IPv4 is now the also-ran. IPv6 is real, here and is being used by massive global players. Stop asking if and when. The question now is how can you join.”

Pemberton heavily stressed the need for enterprises to enable IPv6 if they wish to reach the entire Internet. He, too, noted that many of the countries exhibiting Internet growth are the least developed nations.

“New Zealand is an export driven economy and our export markets are deploying IPv6. We need to ensure that our customers can contact us and vice versa.”

IPv6 will soon be the default training protocol. APNIC – the regional Internet registry for Asia Pacific – is looking at ways to make IPv6 the default protocol taught in its workshops and Pemberton claims that at least one network engineering course at a New Zealand university is looking to do the same.

Wrapping up his suite of messages, Pemberton noted that if IPv6 deployment is approached in a sensible manner as part of normal hardware refresh cycles it will cost a minimal amount. But, engineering in a crisis will cost money. He wound up with a question directed squarely at the CIO audience – “Where would you like to spend your money? On ways to keep IPv4 working, on ways to reduce reliance on IPv4, or on deploying IPv6?”

Bringing a real-world deployment perspective into the frame, Sargeant succinctly outlined REANNZ’s IPv6 journey – a story previously reported at www.ipv6.org.nz/2011/09/07/reannz-lives-the-ipv6-story.

Copies of the three presentations are available below:

Dr Murray Milner – Introduction to IPv6 Adoption with New Zealand Enterprises

Dean Pemberton – Embracing IPv6 from nice to necessary

Sam Sargeant – REANNZ IPv6 Case Study

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