How Do We Get To IPv6?

LAS VEGAS. The available free pool of IPv4 spaces is now gone and with it has come new urgency to move to IPv6.

The question of how and where enterprises should move to IPv4 was tackled in a panel discussion at the Interop conference here this week. While the need for more address space is obvious, there are a number of challenges involved in moving to IPv6.

One of the biggest is the fact that IPv4 is not compatible with IPv6.

”People ask me, how did you screw that one up?” John Curran, President & CEO, ARIN told the Interop audience.

Curran noted that as result of the lack of backward compatibility between the two protocols, there is a need to run both IPv4 and IPv6 in parallel. The length of time that both systems will need to run in parallel is not known, but it’s likely to be many years if not decades.

In terms of where current adoption is for IPv6, Martin Levy, Director IPv6 Strategy at Hurricane Electric noted that there are lots of IPv6 enables services. He said there are IPv6 enabled service providers, operating systems and hardware all in the market today.

According to Levy, on May 3rd, IPv6 usage hit 10 percent of the Internet, which is the first time that IPv6 has hit double digit usage. Going out a step further, Levy argued that 50 percent of well connected network service providers today are already IPv6 enabled. Levy defined “well connected” as service providers with connections to eight or more networks.

”But what about the other 50 percent?” Levy asked the audience. “Ask your service provider or maybe pick another one, you don’t have an excuse anymore.”

Testing IPv6 on a large scale

One excuse however is the simple fact that IPv6 has not been tested on wide scale on big production websites. That will change on World IPv6 day in June.

”IPv6 day is about trying to address the issue of people that think they have IPv6 but actually don’t,” Levy said.

”If you’re running IPv4 only on your network you won’t notice IPv6 day,” Levy added. “But what if you’re at a hotel with a misconfigured gateway giving you a wrong v6 address? That’s what v6 day is about, finding the problems.”

IPv6 day is not about converting everyone though. Curran noted that initial focus of IPv6 conversion is public face servers, things like web and email services.

”We want everything that is external to the firewall to be v6 capable,” Curran said. “There are people internally in enterprises that want the same tools for v6 than they have for v6, but you don’t need to upgrade the LAN immediately, just the public facing serves first.”

Security will also require some new efforts as techniques such as IP blacklisting won’t work with IPv6.

”You can’t keep a list of bad sites that you want to ban for spam with v6,” Curran said. “So you need higher level solutions.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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