Global IPv6 adoption slow to take off

Global adoption of IPv6 is slow and shows few signs of accelerating soon. We look at the state of play on the ground in Australia, the UK and Asia, in a round-up from ZDNet reporters around the world.

Global adoption of IPv6 is slow and shows few signs of accelerating soon. We look at the state of play on the ground in Australia, the UK and Asia, in a round-up from ZDNet reporters around the world.

In Australia, IPv6 adoption is almost non-existent, reports Josh Taylor.

"It's about as bad as everywhere else on the planet, I guess, with the single exception of Romania," Asia Pacific Network Information Centre's chief scientist, Geoff Huston, said in an interview with ZDNet Australia.

"Despite the best efforts of [internet service] providers like Internode, which as far as we can see has [some percent] of its customers able to use v6, everyone else in Australia is nowhere near it. Fractions of a percent."

Internode in January announced that it would enable IPv6 by default for all new Internode customers as part of the global push to get one percent of internet users on IPv6 by the middle of this year. Internode's outgoing managing director Simon Hackett said this week that Internode had doubled the global goal, with two percent of the ISP's customers on IPv6.

Sydney Australia

IPv6 adoption in Australia is slow to non-existent, experts have said. Image credit: Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock.com

"For end customers ... unless you're a customer of Internode and you bought a new DSL modem, it's likely that you can't do [IPv6] in any other form other than tunnelling, and tunnelling is pretty disastrous," Huston said.

In addition to Internode, The Internet Society of Australia president Narelle Clark called out alternate provider iiNet for its work in the area, and praised Telstra and Optus for enabling IPv6 for business customers while other service providers wait because they haven't seen it as a high priority yet.

The issue, according to Huston, is that many businesses and consumers buy their own network equipment, as is the case in other parts of the world.

Quite frankly, they don't buy v6 enabled ones because they cost more and nobody is telling them they have to.
– Geoff Huston, APNIC

"Quite frankly, they don't buy v6 enabled ones because they cost more and nobody is telling them they have to," he said. "When it is working, why would you upgrade it?"

Clark agreed that it was difficult to see the need to change, but said it was necessary.

"We happily connected across IPv4 but we're sitting on this comfy couch, which has grown kind of small because the family has grown, and we need to throw this old couch out and get a new one," she said.

She was disappointed that universities and software companies had been behind in adopting IPv6, but praised the Australian Government Information Management Office, which is aiming to have all federal government agency systems IPv6-enabled by the end of 2012.

Huston said governments had an even bigger role to play; he believes that the government could regulate to prevent new DSL modems being sold that aren't IPv6-compatible.

"There is no point in selling a v4 modem, and it is almost a hoodwink to the poor old customer. Anyone who is buying equipment these days, if they don't get v6 in their equipment, they're wasting their money. The internet isn't going to work in v4 for much longer," he said.

Outlook in the UK

Major UK Internet Service Providers are still not fully ready for the change to an IPv6-based internet address allocation system, despite the Internet Society's World IPv6 Launch Day being scheduled for 6 June, which could lead to potential performance or security issues, reports Ben Woods.

BT, Sky, Orange and O2 had not at the time of writing confirmed whether or not they were supporting the event, which was designed to raise awareness and readiness for the switch to IPv6-based systems and hardware.

The independent, not-for-profit Internet Society marked 6 June as the official IPv6 launch day following a successful test run in June 2011. Companies that took part in the event have pledged IPv6 support from Wednesday onwards.

"World IPv6 Launch, organised by the Internet Society (ISOC), begins today and is supported by the Number Resource Organization (NRO) and the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), who have long played a vital role in raising awareness about supporting the global deployment of IPv6," ISOC said in a blog post on Wednesday. 

The introduction of IPv6-based systems and hardware is necessary as the last IPv4 internet addresses have already been allocated, meaning that ISPs would not be able to add new subscribers to a service. A shortage of network addresses would also seriously undermine the growing area of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) also known as 'the internet of things'.

Unlike IPv4, IPv6 addresses are 128-bits in length, allowing for a far higher number of IP addresses to be allocated in future. IPv4 uses a 32-bit system.

"Many parts of the world are increasing broadband penetration, more smartphones and network-ready devices are entering the market, and the sheer number of internet users is steadily increasing — all of which raises IP address consumption. With IPv4 becoming scarce, the need for IPv6 deployment grows daily," ISOC added.

Virgin Media was the only company to respond to a request for information about IPv6 readiness, to say it had already upgraded its core network equipment as part of its improvement and speed-doubling programme, which started in 2009. However, it conceded that there is still work to do to make sure all of its customers have IPv6-enabled equipment, and as a result, was likely to run parallel support for IPv4 and IPv6.

The introduction of IPv6 is the IT equivalent of the move from imperial to metric for measurement; the two can run side by side but aren't compatible with each other.
– Mark Lewis, Interoute

"We're currently assessing what changes may need to be made to fully support IPv6 in the home. In the meantime, we have enough IPv4 addresses in reserve to satisfy demand for the foreseeable future and we will be supporting IPv4/IPv6 in parallel until a full IPv6 service is complete," the spokesman said.

However, despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm from ISPs to sign up to ISOC's launch day, enterprise telecoms analyst at Ovum, Mike Sapien, said that the eventual scarcity of IP addresses wasn't the only driving factor for ISPs.

"Although an obvious catalyst is the lack of IPv4 address space, we at Ovum have seen other factors in the migration or transition to IPv6," Sapien said in a statement. "The proliferation of devices, mobile access to resources and B2C (Business to Consumer) applications are driving customers to support IPv6. In addition, this isn't really a complete migration — it is more of a dual-support capability that will be enabled for many years to come."

While ISPs can put off the inevitable for the time being, eventually all providers will need to make the switch to IPv6 to avoid problems further down the line, according to Mark Lewis, vice president of development at telecoms company Interoute.

"The introduction of IPv6 is the IT equivalent of the move from imperial to metric for measurement; the two can run side by side but aren't compatible with each other," Lewis said. "The introduction of IPv6 will effectively mean that every device, from the mobile phone to the vending machine, could become a mole in the office."

Security challenges

However, he added that while it presents opportunities, it could also spell an extra security concern for businesses and consumers alike.

"This puts the onus on organisations to secure and understand these new internet-enabled devices that operate within the office walls. From one perspective, the introduction of IPv6 effectively opens a series of new back doors for viruses to sneak through," Lewis said.

"One of the challenges with the introduction of IPv6 is that the de facto control points that secured and audited IPv4 have not been transferred into IPv6. Meaning the industry will have to re-invent the wheel to enable this totally connected world, where every device can speak to everything else in a secure and well-managed way."

Failure to address the challenge of full IPv6 implementation could spell poor performance, as well as potential security issues, until a commitment is made to make the switch, according to business software company Compuware.

"Very few networks are fully optimised for IPv6: most carriers don't yet provide full end-to-end IPv6 connectivity," Michael Allen, director of Application Process Management (APM) at Compuware, said in a statement. "This means that some IPv6 traffic will have to be 'tunnelled' through IPv4. The result? Poor performance and availability issues, which will further impact end user experience."

IPv6 in Asia

Asia is seeing staggered adoption rates for IPv6 across the region due to various reasons ranging from lack of government and user buy-in as well as ISPs' reluctance to provision the service to users, reports Ellyne Phneah.

According to Rajnesh Singh, regional director for Internet Society's Asia-Pacific bureau, the region has previously been leading in terms of IPv6 testbed and research activities as it realises the need to embrace the new protocol due to its large population base and thus potential commercial opportunities.

Actual adoption, however, has been more piecemeal, he noted, adding that Singapore's and Malaysia's governments have been notable in their commitment to enable IPv6 on their internal networks within a specific timeline. The countries' private sectors have also been looking into migrating as demand for training in this area has increased, alongside the rise in service providers offering such services, he added.

China and Japan are embracing IPv6 adoption more readily than other countries in the region, noted Edmon Chung, CEO of DotAsia. The former's demand for the new protocol is spurred by the country's rapid growth in its tech industry, while Japan's IT-savvy citizens have driven its migration efforts, he elaborated.

By contrast, the slower uptake seen in India and South Korea is "surprising", he said. India, in particular, should have shown more enthusiasm in taking up IPv6 given its population size and the growth of its tech industry, Chung added.

South Korea's situation is clearer as its early drive for IPv4 and high penetration achieved had "dampened motivations" to switch to the new protocol, Chung explained.

Comfort levels

Bruno Goveas, Asia-Pacific head of products at Akamai Technologies, remarked that end users' satisfaction and comfort level with the existing internet protocol meant that convincing them to migrate would be a challenge.

"At the end of the day, the user simply wants access to the internet and IPv4 provides that," he said. "There is no push to adopt IPv6 due to the lack of awareness of its benefits."

Singh added that many of Asia's internet service providers have not got on the IPv6 bandwagon and there is little commercial availability for IPv6 for their general user base. Some ISPs have said they are able to provision the new protocol on request, but others are still working on offering such a service, he said.

There is no push to adopt IPv6 due to the lack of awareness of its benefits.
– Bruno Goveas, Akamai

Ultimately, the Internet Society regional director reiterated that IPv6 will be critical for business continuity for all sectors, including governments, private organisations, financial institutions, healthcare providers and even home users.

It is the only way in which networks can scale in the future and improve its performance, Singh stated.

To this end, Singh believes the World IPv6 Launch on June 6 will help boost adoption. He said major global content and service providers will permanently turn on the new protocol for their products and services, with participants including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing.

Goveas added that a "gradual" adoption will be seen with IPv6 should this event prove successful. "Things will slowly improve, triggering content providers to put more content on IPv6 and generating awareness of the service's benefits among users," he said.

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