IPv6 Transition Still a Low Priority for Most Organizations

As World IPv6 Day approaches, recent research reports show that a majority of organizations are still treating the IPv6 migration as something for the future and not an immediate priority.

Despite the increased interest and awareness in IPv6, companies are still just talking about making the switch, according to recent research studies.

Since IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) distributed the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses to the individual regional Internet registries in February, signaling the depletion of available IP addresses, the clock has been ticking on the transition to IPv6.

APNIC (the Asia Pacific Network Information Center), which oversees the Asia-Pacific region, has already announced that it has gone through most of its allocation and has placed the remaining IPv4 addresses under limited distribution, available only to organizations that need them to bridge IPv4 and IPv6 networks.

"Considering the ongoing demand for IP addresses, this date effectively represents IPv4 exhaustion for many of the current operators in the Asia-Pacific region," said APNIC director general Paul Wilson.

Organizations are aware that they need to migrate their network infrastructure to support the IPv6 networking protocol, but there doesn't appear to be a sense of urgency associated with the switch. Even after the European registry Reseaux IP Europeens and the American Registry for Internet Numbers run out of IPv4 addresses, the Internet will keep functioning. Newer customers with IPv6-enabled devices will be unable to access Web services that have not modified their sites to "talk" IPv6, but for the most part, existing online Internet users will be unaffected, according to James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos.

This may be why only 35 percent of respondents in a recent British Telecom Diamond IP survey considered IPv6 a "huge concern" for their organizations, while 46 percent expressed "moderate concern." The remaining 19 percent felt "low concern," because they expected to use existing technologies to optimize how they were using IPv4 addresses, according to the May 18 report.

As expected, service providers were more focused on the upcoming transition, with 56 percent calling IPv6 a "huge concern" and only 8 percent expressing "low concern."

Just a little over half the 587 IT and operations professionals surveyed said they had deployed, were in the process of deploying or planned to deploy IPv6 within their organizations. About 31 percent of the respondents said they had already or were in the process of deploying IPv6, while 22 percent expected to begin deployment within the next two years, according to BT. About 24 percent of respondents told BT there were no deployment plans because IPv6 was either unnecessary for their business or that end-user demand would drive implementation.

The findings are similar to a recent study from network management company Ipswitch, which found that 88 percent of businesses were not "fully ready" for the IPv6 migration. In an online survey of more than 600 network professionals, approximately 66 percent reported "0 to 20 percent" of their business networks were ready for IPv6, according to Ipswitch.

To accelerate IPv6 deployment, the Internet Society is calling for a "World IPv6 Day" on June 8 where major Websites, Internet service providers and content-delivery networks would enable IPv6 services for 24 hours.

Organizations that have not already started the migration will not be ready for June 8, Qing Li, chief scientist at Blue Coat Systems, told eWEEK. Businesses that plan on participating in the World IPv6 Day should at least be in the testing phase at this point, making sure they have deployed the infrastructure correctly.

Organizations should be testing the firewall rules, and ensuring that all packets are being routed correctly, that they can track users based on IPv6 addresses and that logs are correctly handling IPv6 data, Li said.

The goal of World IPv6 day is to make them "not afraid of IPv6," and become enthusiastic about the next-generation infrastructure protocol, according to Li. IT managers are understandably concerned about what's going to happen to their existing security policies, whether the changes will open up network holes for attackers to come in, or whether the network will be able to handle the packets correctly.

Nearly a quarter of respondents in the BT survey identified the perceived complexity of the upgrade as an obstacle to migrating the infrastructure to the new protocol. Other obstacles included the cost of the upgrade and the difficulty of converting legacy applications. About 15 percent noted their impression that the only benefit of having IPv6 was to gain a larger address space was an obstacle to IPv6 deployment.