The IPv6 Transition: How Much Will It Cost?

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What does it actually cost to move to IPv6? That’s the final question that was posed this week at the official ceremony marking the end of IPv4 address space.

The free pool of available IPv4 address space is now gone and with it is coming a renewed push for IPv6. Moving to IPv6 may involve complexities and challenges, not the least of which could be cost.

“The cost is one of these items that each actor, depending on what role they play in the Internet, needs to address and everyone has their own role,” John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) said. “The fact of the matter is that we’ve known about this transition and there are a lot of parties that have actively deployed IPv6.”

Curran noted that ARIN itself is using IPv6. When that organization deploys network infrastructure, Curran said, it doesn’t cost anything more, except for a little configuration work to turn on IPv6. He added that major content companies such as Google and Facebook have IPv6 versions of their websites, and that they’ve deployed IPv6 as part of the normal business of making content available.

Curran said that while Google and Facebook have not made their IPv6 services widely available, they will in support of World IPv6 Day in June. The goal of World IPv6 Day is see if there are any kinks in a broader IPv6 deployment for major websites.

The bottom line for Curran is that rolling out IPv6 should not be a separate project.

“It’s taking the projects that you’re already rolling out to the Internet and making sure that they’re both IPv4 and IPv6 enabled,” Curran said. “It’s a cost of putting something on the Internet, that content companies and now enterprises should be looking at doing as part of their normal website application deployments.”

According to Curran, IPv6 can have a small incremental cost, but it’s not about new equipment or hardware. In his view, it’s about configuration of capabilities already in webservers, routers, firewalls and operating systems that are already in use..

“So hopefully this isn’t a significant additional cost,” Curran said. “I know for the organizations that have been doing this in parallel, that’s certainly the case.”

Make IPv6 part of the normal lifecycle

Curran recommends that enterprises and providers now make IPv6 part of their normal lifecycle for rolling out systems.

Though Curran declined to put an actual dollar figure on the cost of IPv6, others have not been as shy.

Rob Beckstom, CEO of ICANN noted during the IPv4 exhaustion ceremony that someone had discussed with him the cost of moving an emerging market country of 50 million people to IPv6.

“The estimate was roughly a billion dollars and that probably included upgrades they wanted to do to their network anyway,” Beckstrom said.

In 2005, one report pegged the shift of the U.S. federal government to IPv6 to be $75 billion.

“We’re talking about billions of dollars here globally, we’re not talking trillions of dollars,” Beckstrom said. “There is some expense and there is some effort, but if you look at the scale of investment in IT infrastructure, it will probably have more to do with how that spend is directed, than creating additional line items or explicit growth projects.”

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

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