Cisco, Google, Facebook, Others Prep for IPv6 Day

Most businesses and consumers will feel little, if any, impact when the switch to IPv6 begins, but now is the time to start preparing, according to tech vendors.

Go to the Internet Society€™s Website, and across the top of one of the pages is a countdown clock, the seconds ticking away as time closes in on World IPv6 Day June 6.

A year ago, many large Internet companies kicked off the event with a day-long test of IPv6, the next generation of the Internet networking technology. However, this year is for real€”once tech companies like Facebook, Google, Akamai, Cisco Systems and AT&T make the switch to IPv6, they won€™t turn it back off.

According to the Internet Society, which is sponsoring World IPv6 Day, most people and businesses will not see any impact when the switch happens June 6. However, the day will kick off a much-needed step forward for an Internet that€™s under pressure and quickly outgrowing the current protocol, IPv4.

€œThe fact that leading companies across several industries are making significant commitments to participate in World IPv6 Launch is yet another indication that IPv6 is no longer a lab experiment; it€™s here and is an important next step in the Internet€™s evolution,€ Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer for the Internet Society, said in a statement. €œAnd, as there are more IPv6 services, it becomes increasingly important for companies to accelerate their own deployment plans.€

The problem with IPv4€”and one that has been foreseen for years€”is that it€™s essentially running out of room. The protocol can hold about 4 billion IP addresses, a number that is quickly being used up by the vast numbers of people, devices and Web services that are coming online. Cisco officials on May 30 outlined the pressure that is being put on the Internet, noting that by 2016, there will be almost 18.9 billion network connections, or about 2.5 connections per person on Earth.

And it€™s not just people using devices to connect to the Internet. Machine-to-machine connections€”fueled by the growth of such items as connected appliances and automobiles€”also will continue growing, and all those connections need an IP address.

By comparison, IPv6 will provide more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses, according to the Internet Society, ensuring that the Internet will be able to continue its current growth rate indefinitely, without running out of room.

That€™s good for businesses, consumers and tech companies that play and make their living on the Internet. However, that doesn€™t mean they will feel the switchover immediately. Even though many top Internet service providers (ISPs) and tech companies will switch on their IPv6 support, it doesn€™t mean IPv4 is coming down anytime soon.

€œYour current network running IPv4-based devices won€™t be obsolete for some time,€ Sampa Choudhuri, solutions marketing manager for Cisco€™s Small Business Organization, said in a May 29 blog post. €œHowever, if you haven€™t already started making plans for the transition to IPv6, you should. The first step you should take is determining how and when to transition to the new Internet protocol based on your business needs. For example, if you do business with others who are already on an IPv6 network, you may decide to migrate sooner rather than later.€

Businesses will need to start taking steps to prepare to support IPv6, Choudhuri wrote. She suggested a three-step approach: assessing network hardware to determine what equipment is IPv6-enabled, then identifying the IPv4 equipment that eventually will need to be replaced; creating a software inventory for the same reason, taking note that many current operating systems€”including Windows 7, Vista and XP and major Linux distributions from Red Hat and Ubuntu€”already support IPv6; and developing a migration plan to phase in IPv6 over time.

According to the Internet Society, more than 1,500 Websites€”including four of the top five in the world€”and ISPs in more than 22 countries will enable IPv6 on June 6, as will some makers of home routers.

Participating ISPs include AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Free Telecom, while Cisco and D-Link offer IPv6-enabled home networking equipment. Web companies enabling their main Websites for IPv6 include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo, while content delivery network providers Akamai and Limelight will enable IPv6 throughout their infrastructures.