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IPv6: A new headache or huge opportunity?

The IPv4 internet address schema has been around for a long time -- pretty much since the beginning of the internet, says Murray Milner, NZ IPv6 Task Force. And while there are still IPv4 addresses available, the supply is inevitably running out.The few remaining IPv4 addresses are very unevenly distributed, says Milner. The developing countries don't have them, so with the growth of mobile and internet uptake in those countries, part of the internet is starting to grow on the new IPv6 protocol. "It essentially creates a new internet, which sits alongside the existing internet," Milner says. "If you are sitting on IPv4 and you don't do anything about it, you will not be able to see or access what is happening on IPv6."IPv6 is real and it's here, according to Dean Pemberton, technical policy advisor, InternetNZ."The amount of IPv6 traffic on the internet is growing day by day and we are just at the start of that wave," he says. When Pemberton talks to organisations about IPv6 he often hears comments such as, "no one is using IPv6", "it's not ready", "there is no support" and "come back in six months and maybe we'll have a chat then".But these kinds of statements are not entirely true, he says. IPv6 is ready and deployed on large mobile networks and by global content providers today. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia and Akamai are among the organisations that have embraced IPv6, says Pemberton. Verizon Wireless has IPv6 on by default for nearly all LTE devices and T-Mobile USA will have IPv6 by default soon, he says.A real-world example is the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, he says. Their traffic statistics show 6-7 Gbit/s of only IPv6 traffic. "The main Internet Exchange in Germany is seeing upwards of 13 Gbit/s of just IPv6 traffic. This stuff is out there. It's real. It's being used on a large scale today," Pemberton says."Stop asking 'if' and 'when'. The question now is -- how can you join them?"IPv6 is essential for reaching the entire internet, he says. A number of trading partners you may want to work with will increasingly be making more use of IPv6 than IPv4 -- those in Asian countries, in particular, but also service providers and operators in the US, he says.The 'least developed countries' have some of the largest growth in internet deployment and they will be on IPv6, Pemberton says. "New Zealand is an export-driven economy. Being able to talk to those customers, in the way that is most comfortable for them -- that's important." A new ISP in, for example India, can only be given a limited amount of IPv4 addresses -- around 1,000 -- whereas there is no limit to how many IPv6 addresses they can have. They are going to choose IPv6, and "these are the people that you want to do business with".. " The 'Internet of Things' à $c Smart homes and cities; telemedicine; smart meters; vehicle monitoring; agricultural automation; surveillance -- these are only some of the areas that are going to drive up the number of connected devices, says Pemberton, and they will be based on IPv6.The number of connected devices crossed the limit of IPv4 address provisioning back in 2011. Very soon, the number of internet users will be above that limit too, he says.à $  Unsustainable alternatives à ¶  Are there alternatives to going through with a full IPv6 deployment? Yes, there are some alternatives but they are not sustainable, says Milner. Redistributing addresses, for example, but the problem with that is that it starts to fragment the internet address ranges, which causes bloating in the routers that make up the internet, he says. Another option is staying with IPv4 and translating all IPv6 traffic with Network Address Translation (NAT). However, NAT has many limitations, says Milner. Port scalability, increased delay and session unreliability are some of the problems."The real solution is IPv6."What market opportunities are you missing out on today, asks Milner.New services and applications on the IPv6 network will grow quickly, while those specifically developed for the IPv4-based internet will slowly diminish."This is an emerging business risk for all of you. If you don't change you will be forced to change at some point. It is not a matter of if, but only when."à #  Start planning and go slow à × "It may not be an immediate problem for you but I strongly recommend that you think about it very soon. Because it will creep up and bite you at some point. We can be absolutely certain of that," Milner says. The good news is adopting IPv6 doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg, says Pemberton. "Engineering in a crisis is what will cost you money. If you do things nice and slowly you will get to the same place for less money."Delaying adoption will almost certainly increase the risk that a business will be constrained in some way in the future, warns Milner. Start your adoption journey small and let IPv6 take over gradually, he recommends. à !  Vendor support a barrier à î  REANNZ, Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand, has been IPv6-enabled since 2006 and is finally starting to see the benefits of it. The Crown-owned company issued the initial RFP to build the network in 2005, which included IPv6 from day one, says Sam Sargeant, CIO of REANNZ. The network, formerly known as KAREN, extends to Sydney and Los Angeles at a speed of 1Gbit/s. From these landing points the network connects with over 100 research and education networks across the world. The national backbone is capable of 10 Gbit/s, he says.While one of New Zealand's largest universities started using IPv6 in 2006, implementation for internal use of the new protocol wasn't straightforward, he says. REANNZ' corporate LAN was outsourced to a third party IT provider and their security architects were concerned about how the firewalls would interact with IPv6, says Sargeant. "à "  So concerned that they refused to allow us to use IPv6 on our corporate LAN, citing they couldn't deliver the SLAs we had contracted them for."About a year later REANNZ moved management of the corporate LAN in-house and enabled IPv6 traffic without any major issues, he says. But there have been some hurdles along the way. The organisation enabled IPv6 for its life-size video-conferencing solution in 2007 but no one used it. "NZ IPv6 Task Force's recommendations for successful IPv6 adoption: Gain senior management commitmentAllocate specific resource to achieve the agreed outcomeEnsure allocated resource is adequately trained in IPv6 technologyUndertake an audit of the use of IPv4 addresses across the businessEnsure that IPv6 adoption is included as part of any procurement, refresh, upgrade or rehabilitation of any ICT infrastructure or applicationCommit to a planned approach to the adoption of IPv6 in association with any ICT procurement and refresh cycles. Sam Sargeant, Dean Pemberton and Murray Milner presented at the recent CIO Luncheon: CIOs, IPv6 and the 'Internet of Things' sponsored by Internet NZ.


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