World IPv6 Day Signals Time to Modernize the Internet

On June 8, more than 100 Web companies will work with ISPs and content-delivery networks to conduct the first global-scale trial of IPv6.

The Internet Society, an international nonprofit organization that advises on Web standards, policy and education, has declared June 8 World IPv6 Day to give enterprises and ISPs a chance to "stress test" the next-generation Internet protocol to see what works, what breaks and what they need to do to seamlessly migrate their networks to IPv6. It's also a wake-up call that it's time to upgrade the World Wide Web.

On that day, more than 200 Web companies-including giants Facebook, Google and Yahoo-will work with ISPs and content-delivery networks to conduct the first global-scale trial of IPv6. For a 24-hour period, participating companies around the world will enable IPv6 on their main services.

The need for an IPv6 day has been looming for years. Ever since the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority doled out the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses to the individual regional Internet registries in February-signaling the depletion of available IP addresses-there has been a lot of discussion about adopting the next-generation networking protocol, IPv6. While some major enterprises have already begun the transition, there's still confusion about what they have to do.

Lest anyone think the IPv4-based Internet is about to come to a screeching halt, there's still some time left, James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos, told eWEEK. Organizations are actually pretty "IPv6-ready" because most modern networking equipment can support the IPv6 namespace.

Operating systems-including Apple Mac OS X, most versions of Microsoft Windows and most major Linux distributions-have supported IPv6 addresses for a number of years. In fact, since IPv6 addresses are enabled by default in the operating system, if the network has the capability to assign an IPv6 address, the user machine most likely already
has an IPv6 address, Lyne said. He added that being on IPv6 accidentally is not that unusual, if the organization has an IPv6 network running or if the Internet service provider has turned on IPv6.

At some point, the entire Internet infrastructure has to move to using the newer address space, since the differences in the protocols mean that computers with IPv4 addresses cannot communicate with machines with IPv6 addresses.

Two things will drive the push for IPv6 addresses: the continued explosion of mobile devices and more users coming online from emerging markets. With no more IPv4 addresses left, new mobile devices will all be receiving IPv6 addresses.

Businesses need to ensure that their Websites, customer portals and online services are accessible to their users with IPv6 addresses or new customers will not be able to find them online.

Companies need to make sure their external properties can "talk" IPv6, according to Lyne. E-commerce sites probably face the biggest pressure to make the transition, he said.

For many organizations, the biggest challenge is not getting the Website or the server ready, but ensuring the ISP has turned on IPv6 and can handle IPv6 traffic, Steve Garrison, vice president of corporate market at Infoblox, told eWEEK. Despite news from Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast and Hurricane Electric, "not all ISPs are ready for IPv6," he said.