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IPv6 picks up steam

Slowly, ever so slowly, IPv6 adoption is starting to gain momentum, but we need to start moving to it before mobile devices and the Internet of Things leaves us scrambling for the last few IPv4 Internet addresses.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Believe it or not, Akamai found in its recent The State of the Internet for the 2nd quarter of 2014 report that the global number of unique IPv4 addresses in use actually declined by about seven million quarter-over-quarter. Don't think, however, that we're not still running out of IPv4 addresses. We are.


Akamai explained that while this may be the first time in the Internet's history that the global unique Internet Protocol (IP) address count declined, it's still only a decrease of less than one percent. Akamai's analysts suggest that this reduction "may be indicative of more providers implementing carrier-grade network address translation (CGN) solutions in an effort to conserve limited IPv4 address space, or more likely, increased support for and availability of IPv6 connectivity among leading network service providers."

IPv6 connectivity has indeed been improving at the Tier 1 level. For example, Hurricane Electric (HE), a leading global Internet backbone, has just announced that it's extended its global IPv4 and IPv6 network to Equinix International Business Exchange data centers in Asia and Europe.

If you look at the overall trend, we're still quickly running out of IPv4 addresses. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) announced in April that it's down to its last lot of of old-style IPv4 addresses. At this point, the best estimate has ARIN exhausting its pool of IPv4 addresses on March 22, 2015. In the meantime, Europe, Latin America, and Asia have already emptied their pools. Only Africa has any significant number of IPv4 addresses left.

Still, HE reports that IPv6 traffic amounts to just over four percent of global IP traffic. It won't stay that low for much longer. The ever-increasing demand for Internet addresses combined with the last drops of the IPv4 address pool draining out dictates that the need for IPv6 addresses  must increase.

You might think that you can get by without moving to IPv6. You'd be wrong. As Akamai put it, "redistributing increasingly small blocks of IPv4 address space is not a sustainable way to grow the Internet. IPv6 deployment is a requirement for any network that needs to survive.”

What's currently driving the demand for more Internet addresses is the vast increase in mobile devices. Look around you. Besides your computer, do you have a tablet? A smartphone? On your person and desk alone you probably need three times the IP addresses you did five years ago. Multiply by a world population that's taking to mobile computing devices like ducks to water and you can see why you need to start moving to IPv6 now instead of keeping it on a perpetual back-burner.

Some companies do get it. In the United States Verizon Wireless is the leading last-mile IPv6 ISP by a wide-margin. According to the Internet Society, Verizon Wireless’ IPv6 deployment has edged up over 56 percent, while T-Mobile USA is now over 40 percent, and AT&T is getting close to hitting 25 percent.

That's not enough. By Google's count, IPv6 usage just crossed the five percent mark in mid-October 2014 and its growth rate is increasing. With the Internet of Things demanding yet another huge swatch of IP addresses the time to start converting from IPv4 to IPv6 is now.

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