Worldwide IPv6 Usage Reaches Key Threshold
This past weekend, Google’s IPv6 Statistics reported that on November 17, 2012, user activity on their websites via native IPv6 reached 1% for the very first time. This may not sound like much at first glance, but for a system like the Internet which is slated to have 19 billion active fixed and mobile network connections by 2016, even one percent of this whole marks an impressive achievement. The billions of applications, devices, routers, and switches that make up the Internet are all interconnected such that if any one doesn’t support IPv6 on a given path between the end user and the content the user is trying to reach, the system automatically falls back to IPv4. This is necessary to keep the Internet running while the upgrade occurs, but it also means that the benefits of end-to-end traffic flow over IPv6 occurs only after all the various links in the chain are all capable of supporting IPv6.
To get a better idea of how each individual piece of the deployment puzzle is advancing, Cisco has been tracking various leading indicators and regional deployment statistics. We’ve pulled these together in an interactive tool at 6lab.cisco.com where you can view IPv6 deployment data from a variety of perspectives. With the tool you can “mouse over” different regions of the world to see how various countries are doing in different areas. For example, by moving your mouse cursor over the United States, you can see that 57% of the networks that appear as transit for IPv4 today also support IPv6, end users as measured by Google is higher than the global average at 1.93%, and that 45% of the time the average user in the US visits an IPv6 reachable website. You can also dig down into the methodology we are using to create the various rankings and percentages.
Moving the needle
Back in 2007 when Google began publishing its IPv6 measurements, native IPv6 deployment stood at 0.04%. Working together, the industry moved the needle 2500% over the past five years (while adding an additional billion users to the Internet during the same period). To help make this happen, two historic industry events have occurred: The World IPv6 Day in 2011 and the World IPv6 Launch in 2012. During the planning stages for the World IPv6 Launch, I had the privilege to work alongside other industry leaders and the Internet Society until agreement was reached to target three categories of participants that committed to enable production-level IPv6 by default: website operators, network operators, and home router vendors. Cisco signed on and participated as both a website operator and home router vendor.
Making a commitment is one thing, allowing a public measurement for all to see is another. For a website it is rather simple to measure IPv6 deployment as either a “AAAA” record for IPv6 exists in the public DNS system and the website can be reached from the Internet over IPv6 or not. For the network operator category we were looking for a lasting commitment together with some measurable factor that would provide reasonable proof that the network had moved beyond trials and on to production-level deployment. After much discussion, we came up with these two basic commitments for this category:
- IPv6 be a “normal part of business operations” for users, targeting ISPs to commit to enable IPv6 for users by default rather than on “special request”
- One percent of all user activity as measured by Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Bing over IPv6 by June 6, 2012, the inaugural day of the Launch.
In practice, reaching one percent of user activity means deployment to a considerably larger subscriber base than one percent after accounting for legacy home networking gear, operating systems, and applications. For an ISP to reach this level as measured by the content providers, the “general population” of subscribers would have to brought into the deployment – a strong indication of production-level operation and reasonable proof that the deployment was more than a trial of friendly users or beta testers.
The aim of the World IPv6 Launch was to spark a sustained growth of IPv6 usage leading up to and continuing after June 6, 2012. The continued growth since June 6 and the milestone reached this weekend is an indicator that this commitment had its intended affect thus far. The Internet Society is continuing to report measurements for World IPv6 Launch participants, and has been soliciting new members. There are quite a few Network Operators on the list now, including not only ISPs but universities and other types of networks as well. As long as a network has its own Autonomous System number, it can be measured and potentially added to the participant list. Cisco now has its own AS (#109) on the list, making it the first in the world that is participating in all three categories of the World IPv6 Launch.
User activity as measured by Google hit 0.25% for the first time in March 2011. A year later, on March 10, 2012, it doubled to 0.5% for the first time. It’s taken about 8 months to double that again to reach 1.0% today. If this trend continues, it will double again by mid next year and could break past 10% by the end of 2014. The trend is increasingly clear: If you are a network operator, network-enabled application developer, or anyone else that works with IP and are not running IPv6 now or don’t have a plan in place to make it happen soon, now is the time to get started.