London 2012 needs IPv6 at the starting gun

There are sound reasons why the London 2012 Olympics must follow Beijing's example and implement an IPv6 infrastructure, says Axel Pawlik

China made its mark with its implementation of IPv6 for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. London needs to follow suit — for the good of its games and to help create an IPv6-ready infrastructure in the capital, says Axel Pawlik.

Earlier this summer, the Wimbledon quarter-finals triggered a 70-percent surge in UK internet traffic as the public watched matches online. The online viewing figures in August 2012 are expected to dwarf that Wimbledon surge, as millions around the world log on to watch the London Olympics.

With the opening ceremony just under a year away, there has been little mention of the IT network infrastructure in place to support operations and help broadcast the event to rest of the world. An up-to-date IT infrastructure offers great opportunity to show what can be done with IPv6, the new generation of internet protocol (IP) addresses, as we rapidly run out of IPv4, the original IP address standard.

London Olympic stadium

There are sound reasons why the London 2012 Olympics must follow Beijing's example and implement an IPv6 infrastructure, says Axel Pawlik. Photo credit: London 2012

The rapid depletion of IPv4 addresses in the region was the spur behind the China Next Generation Internet (CNGI) project's heavy investment in IPv6. The results of this investment were showcased at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Olympics website was hosted using IPv6 via a specific domain.

It didn't just stop at the website. Deployment of IPv6 was widespread in all related applications, from data networking and camera transmissions for sporting events, to civil applications, such as security systems, lighting and thermostats. Even the 15,000 taxis in Beijing were monitored by CNGI via IPv6 sensors so that traffic congestion was measured quickly and effectively relieved.

All network operations at the Beijing games were conducted using IPv6, which at the time made it the largest showcase of IPv6 technology since its inception.

Exhaustion of the IPv4 address resource

The Asia-Pacific region exhausted its IPv4 address resource earlier this year, and Europe is expected to be in the same situation very soon. It is expected that all regions may have completely exhausted IPv4 addresses by 2015, with Africa running out last.

London needs to follow Beijing's example and lead the way for the rest of world by implementing IPv6 to help raise awareness of this IP network issue among a global audience. It can be a springboard for...

...further IPv6 migration at all levels, from content providers to ISPs and individual businesses.

One of IPv6's features, stateless auto-configuration, allows new devices, particularly non-traditional devices, to be added to networks quickly and easily with little advance configuration. For example, IPv6-enabled video cameras can automatically configure IP addresses without requiring the manual configuration needed for IPv4.

These IPv6-enabled video cameras can be accessed and controlled through centralised software. Implementing IPv6-enabled cameras such as these will not only enhance transmission capabilities from venues, but more importantly, event security.

Lasting legacy of an IPv6-ready infrastructure

Beyond the Olympics, the ultimate importance will be to the wider UK network infrastructure. If, as expected, IPv4 has run out by the time the Olympics starts, the games can leave a lasting legacy of an IPv6-ready infrastructure in the UK's capital, which in turn could encourage the whole country to follow suit.

If we don't achieve global adoption of IPv6, we will see the creation of a two-tiered internet, one running on IPv4 and one on IPv6. This division would have a dramatic impact on the global internet economy and business and consumers.

The Beijing games left a mark in history as the first major event to implement IPv6, and Russia is already planning to implement IPv6 for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. As it stands, the technical community has not been informed of IPv6 plans at the London Olympics.

A lot of work is going into making sure London 2012 is the best Olympics yet, but from a network deployment point of view, let's hope it doesn't fall short of the example set in Beijing three years ago.

Axel Pawlik is managing director of the Ripe NCC, an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports the infrastructure of the internet for Europe, the Middle East and parts of central Asia. While at the University of Dortmund, Pawlik contributed to the establishment of Unix networking as a publicly available service in Germany. He also founded EUnet Deutschland GmbH, developing it into one of the strongest EUnet networks in Europe.

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