Lots of Foot Dragging on IPv6

The IPv4 address space is near exhaustion, yet a new report claims that traffic on the
modernized IPv6 (define)
protocol is slow and migration to the newer address spaces is sluggish.

In a year-long study of 2,393 peering and backbone routers conducted by Arbor
Networks, the majority of respondents (customer and peering interfaces) said IPv6 traffic
is a small percentage of overall traffic.

What gives?

“What we expected to find is that the migration to IPv6 is slow,” Scott Iekel-Johnson,
principal software engineer at Arbor Networks, told InternetNews.com. “I don’t
think you’d find anyone that expected there to be a significant ramp up in IPv6 usage.
What was surprising in what we found is that there is no migration.”

That’s not to say people aren’t using IPv6 and usage is not growing. Just not by as
much as expected, given the size of the problem with Internet address space crowding.
Arbor reported that IPv6 traffic grew to a peak of 150 mbps in the summer of 2008 from
approximately 50 mbps in the fall of 2007. In comparison to IPv4 traffic though, Arbor
reported that for the year that they have been looking at IPv6 traffic it only
represented 0.0026 percent (or 26 one-hundredths) of IPv4 traffic.

“We saw a flat proportion of IPv4 to IPv6 over the course of the year,” Iekel-Johnson
said. “So although in aggregate IPv6 did grow, it’s growing at about the same level that
general Internet traffic is growing.”

Arbor’s study looked only at IPv6 traffic that is tunneled over IPv4, as opposed to
looking at native IPv6 traffic. Tunneled traffic allows for dual stack applications where
both IPv4 and IPv6 can co-exist on a network. According to Iekel-Johnson, native IPv6
traffic does exist but the reporting infrastructure is not able to measure it in the same
way that IPv4 traffic can be measured.

Arbor’s study did not specifically break out geographical disparities in IPv6 usage.
In fact, the study represented some 65 ISPs in the Americas while only 6 ISPs from Asia
Pacific are included. American carriers own more IPv4 address space than other
geographies, which has been seen as a reason why
adoption has been faster in Asia

“We have some monitoring in Asia but we would like to see more there obviously
Iekel-Johnson admitted. “It’s not quite as comprehensive as the European and North
American measurements.”

Though Arbor’s study may have some issues, at least one major IPv6 vendor praised the

“In general, we agree with the findings of the report issued today,” Juniper Networks
spokesperson Brendan Hayes told InternetNews.com. “It seems comprehensive and we
appreciate the value of these types of studies as they help raise awareness and
understanding of critical industry issues.”

In the United States there could well have been reason for more IPv6 traffic as the
U.S. government had a June 30th mandate in place for
. The mandate came from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and
required federal agencies to be IPv6-compliant. It did not specify that agencies must
actually be running IPv6, only that they have the capability to send and receive IPv6
traffic. The mandate, according to Arbor, has not yet triggered more usage of IPv6 yet

“We see press releases from lots of providers across the world talking about IPv6
readiness or infrastructure deployed and I’m sure it’s all true it just doesn’t seem like
anyone is using it,” Iekel-Johnson said.

IPv4 has a 32-bit address space, which provides for up to 4.3 billion addresses. In
contrast IPv6 has a 128-bit address space, which can provide up to
360,382,386,120,984,643,363,377,707,131,268,210,929 possible addresses. Iekel-Johnson
noted that IPv4 address space should be exhausted sometime in the 2010/2011 timeframe.
Despite that impeding issue, IPv6 adoption still isn’t picking up steam.

“It’s a slow-moving train and there is no perception that there is an immediate
problem so there is nothing motivating the switch,” Iekel-Johnson said.

Plus, the content just isn’t there; many websites are not yet optimized for IPv6.
Google, for example, just recently opened
up to IPv6
, but it’s more the exception than the rule.

Even when all IPv4 addresses are consumed, expected sometime around 2010, there may
still be some blocks of addresses that can move around. For example, Iekel-Johnson noted
that unused IPv4 address might eventually be traded among providers. That would not
address the underlying issues of address exhaustion, but it would be just one solution
among many.

“This isn’t oil they won’t find another cache to carry us through another five years,”
Iekel-Johnson said. “We are running out and we’re going to have to migrate at some

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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