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Sound the death knell for IPv4

James Hutchinson | April 5, 2011
2011 marks the death of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) but companies and ISPs are largely yet to deploy its successor, IPv6. But what is the state of the market and what is holding the new protocol back?

It's not that support doesn't exist. All modern operating systems support IPv6 to some degree, and mobile devices are fast enabling the protocol as standard.

Lindsay's own company, Internode, has become a champion of IPv6 adoption within Australia. Since late 2009, the service provider has run a live trial of the protocol to residential 'power users' and currently counts 200 IPv6 customers online at any time. Production-quality IPv6 services are also available for business users.

The same, however, can't be said for most major Australian providers.

"We're definitely talking v6 with a lot of the major operators in Australia, we're just not seeing a lot of traffic from them," Lindsay says.

According to APNIC chief scientist, Geoff Huston, the lack of movement on the issue comes as a direct result of device manufacturers, service providers and network operators playing a finger-pointing game on who should act first.

"They all blame each other," he says. "It would have been good if they had all stopped [arguing] a couple of years ago and the industry realised that next year's growth is all about v6. The only way you can figure there's a cliff in your path is to actually jump over it."

The move toward mobility has highlighted that schism, accelerating IPv4 address consumption at alarming rates. It's a problem that Huston says could conceivably lead the world back to "hermetically sealed walled gardens", similar to the bulletin boards and bridged Ethernet networks that preceded today's open and largely ungoverned internet.

"By the time the consumers are aware of that, it's maybe all too late," he says.

Ahead of the pack

For Melbourne's Monash University, however, IPv6 is a thing of the past rather than future.

Boasting one of the few comprehensive IPv6 production environments in Australia, the university has seen vastly improved use of the protocol since switching internal access networks across the past two years.

According to John Mann, senior technical consultant at the institution, IPv6-enabled incoming traffic on the Monash Web server has averaged 15 per cent in recent months, while eight per cent of overall incoming traffic is enabled for IPv6.

Monash servers also handle 200GB worth of IPv6-enabled traffic per day, largely from Google where the institution hosts its staff and student email. Mann says the protocol has become useful in keeping traffic afloat more than once when Google's v4 equivalent became unavailable.

Initially begun as a testing environment for masters' students in 2002, the university's foray into the protocol soon became a part of AARNet's research network GrangeNet, allowing students and staff to test the protocol's potential uses.


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