Jul 27, 2011 09:56 am | Network World
by Carolyn Duffy Marsan
More than 70% of IT departments plan to upgrade their websites to support IPv6 within the next 24 months, according to a recent survey of more than 200 IT professionals conducted by Network World. Plus, 65% say they will have IPv6 running on their internal networks by then, too.
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These IT professionals proclaimed strong support for IPv6 deployment in the online survey, which attracted 210 respondents. More than 90% said IPv6 is “fundamentally important to the Internet,” and 74% said they would prefer their companies be “leaders, and not laggards, when it comes to IPv6 adoption.”
This wave of support for IPv6 comes at a time when the Internet is running out of address space with IPv4, the current version of the Internet’s main communications protocol. IPv6 fixes this problem by offering a virtually limitless number of IP addresses, but it requires hardware and software upgrades because it is not backward compatible with IPv4.
The survey indicates that companies are further along in IPv6 deployment than expected. For example, 86% of respondents said they had already investigated whether their current hardware and software supports IPv6, which is one of the first steps in planning an IPv6 deployment. A mere 16% reported that all of their software and hardware currently supports IPv6, although on a brighter note, 46% say that “most” of it does.
As expected, the survey indicates that IT professionals are focused on their public-facing websites, with 82% saying they will “eventually adopt IPv6 for our website.” Of the respondents, 13% said they had already completed IPv6 deployment on their websites and another 20% said they were in the middle of this upgrade. Another 39% said they would begin this upgrade within the next 24 months.
But one surprise of the survey was how many IT professionals also indicated plans to upgrade their internal networks to support IPv6, an effort that is expected to take longer and cost more money than IPv6 deployment on externally facing websites. Overall, 72% of respondents said their companies will “eventually adopt IPv6 for our corporate network.” Similar to the responses for website deployment, 13% of respondents said they had already added IPv6 to their internal corporate networks and another 25% said they had begun this upgrade process. An additional 27% said they would begin the process within the next 24 months.
One survey respondent, John Mann, a network architect at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said his organization has been making steady IPv6 progress for years.
“Mostly IPv6 has just worked,” Mann said. “IPv6 has been incrementally enabled in parallel with IPv4, and traffic has gradually moved across as AAAA records are added to the DNS. There have been occasional problems, but they have been worked through one by one.
“Our understanding of IPv6 has evolved over time as we have used it, found a problem and overcome it, used it some more, found the next problem, etc. The biggest problem is maintaining forward progress with IPv6 while it is still possible to take the easy option and fall back to IPv4.”
The university’s Web server has been IPv6-enabled since 2008.
Survey respondents indicated several potential stumbling blocks to IPv6 deployment on their internal networks and external websites. These include a lack of available commercial service from carriers, and network hardware and software products that lack feature-parity between IPv6 and IPv4.
“Our WAN suppliers and network vendors are currently the largest barriers to dual-stack IPv6 deployment,” wrote one survey respondent. “Currently, our carrier does not offer MPLS service (or Internet) with IPv6. … Our new network vendor (Juniper) does not yet have a full feature set (example: DHCPv6 Relay).”
Another survey respondent agreed that carrier deployment is lagging. “ISP support is lacking, otherwise we would have already adopted IPv6 for global connectivity,” this respondent said.
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The survey indicates that IT professionals are following the issue of IPv6 deployment closely. Two-thirds of the survey respondents said they have hands-on experience with IPv6, and more than half said that “it is important that IPv6 be adopted as quickly as possible.”
Still, IT professionals have many unanswered questions about IPv6, with 64% saying that they need more education about implementing IPv6.
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The Network World IPv6 survey targeted IT professionals who will be involved in corporate upgrades to IPv6. Of those who responded, 90% said they would be directly responsible or have influence over some aspect of their company’s IPv6 deployment.
Corporations are migrating to IPv6 because the Internet is running out of addresses using IPv4. The free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses expired in February, and in April the Asia Pacific region ran out of all but a few IPv4 addresses being held in reserve for startups. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which doles out IP addresses to network operators in North America, says it will deplete its supply of IPv4 addresses this fall.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and can connect up a vastly greater number of devices: 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 offers the promise of faster, less-costly Internet services than the alternative, which is to extend the life of IPv4 using network address translation (NAT) devices.
Network World’s survey was conducted a few weeks after the first large-scale trial of IPv6. More than 400 corporate, government and university websites supported IPv6 for 24 hours during World IPv6 Day, which was designed to identify technical roadblocks to IPv6 deployment. The trial was so successful that Google and Facebook were among the World IPv6 Day participants that promised new commercial IPv6 services.