To answer that question first we need to look at the significance the current IP layer has in our day to day lives. Beyond that we need to, for lack of better words, “follow the money” that these IP based applications, services and infrastructure support. Stability of IP based communication is something we may take for granted but what would happen if that stable IPv4 layer was replaced with a not so stable upgrade? My home network connection goes out, kind of irritating but in the big picture I will probably forget it… the first time. Service Providers realize that if they cannot provide you with a stable service you may not be a happy customer, which may open the door for you to look elsewhere. Beyond that, the loss of IP based communication in many industries is seen as a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars per second both in revenue generation and loss of opportunity. The point is, much of the world economy relies on a stable network at all times.
In reality that old layer 3 has to go. It was designed with a forward looking vision however, that vision didn’t look far enough. It has been patched and propped up, sure it runs well but we are about out of digital Duct Tape. I am sure you have heard of the running out of IP addresses issue, that is real. The additional IP addresses that IPv6 supports allows for direct access to services, features and applications that will become even more a part of our everyday lives than today. Encryption support is also identified as mandatory in the IPv6 protocol. To me these features are tightly linked, the more addressable space, the more sensitive data on the public network, the more security will be a requirement. Addressable space and security are not the only things that IPv6 brings to the table, optimization for new hardware, auto address configuration and network discovery methods to name a few.
That’s a no brainer, give me secure communication with increased functionality… sign me up. Yea that would be nice but, let’s go back to the money thing. The owners of these networks cannot implement this functionality without the confidence that the components installed have proper IPv6 functionality and can interoperate. The IPv6 certification process verifies network components to be compliant in areas including core functionality, security devices, routing protocols and encryption to name some. Compliance to standards is good, and the certification is made stronger with additional tests based on interoperability with previously certified systems.
Next we will discuss what the US Government is doing to accelerate the transition to IPv6.