For those that are not closely involved with IPv6, it may seem like the emphasis on migration to the new addressing scheme is waning. But while the hue and cry over IPv6 may appear to have quieted down to a background noise since 2010-2011; a closer inspection would prove that perception to be quite false.
What is IPv6 and why does it even matter? Simply put, when a device is on the Internet, it has its own specific address that it uses to communicate with other devices and the Internet and to define its location. With the non-stop growth of devices connecting to the Internet and the “Internet of Everything” (IoE) becoming a reality, the need for unique addresses for each personal device and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections has increased exponentially. To put this in perspective, the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) 2013-2018 forecast estimates that there will be about 4 billion Internet users by 2018, which is 52% of the world’s projected population (7.6 billion people). And for every person on the Earth in 2018, there will be about 3 global Internet connections — that’s more than 21 billion devices/connections by 2018.The current communication and address format IPv4 was just not equipped for this explosive growth of devices and connections and the need to define addresses for each device. Hence the need for a new communication protocol, IPv6.
On 3 February 2011, the last batch of IPv4 address blocks was allocated by the Number Resource Organization (NRO), hence the term “IPv4 exhaustion.” Asia and Europe having already exhausted their IPv4 allotments, and North America, Africa, and Latin America expected to allocate their remaining IPv4 addresses between 2015 and 2017. The Number Resource Organization (NRO) is a coordinating body for the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) that manage the distribution of Internet number resources including IP addresses and Autonomous System Numbers. Each RIR consists of the Internet community in its region.
Cisco’s IPv6 Lab reports that nearly 10 percent (4,500) of the websites tracked are IPv6-enabled, a tenfold increase from last year. As these 10 percent of web sites tend to be the top providers of content and applications globally (Google, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc.) they represent an average 40 percent of content and web activities reachable over IPv6. There can be, however, a variation depending on the popularity of these web sites across regions and countries. In addition, there have been specific country initiatives and cloud provider deployments that have had a positive impact on local IPv6 content availability.
If network deployment of IPv6 is occurring at a steady rate, then what’s the problem? The current IPv4 and the IPv6 protocols are not compatible with each other. Direct communication over the IPv6 network will require that both the sending and receiving networks need to be running over IPv6. As a result, all the devices on the network need to be IPv6-compatible as well. Enter the pesky NATs (Network Address Translators), which have been masquerading IP addresses and translating IPv4 addresses to IPv6 addresses and vice versa so that information can flow over the Internet between the two protocols. This translation of network addresses is possibly one of the main reasons that there is a slowing down of the IPv6 deployment across the networks. The drawback to the usage of NATs is that they do not allow the speed and functional richness of the IPv6 network to fully emerge and hinders various applications like video conferencing thus requiring temporary work-arounds.
Is something being done? Yes, bolstered by various device and connection growth projections from Cisco and others as well as support and encouragement from the World IPv6 Launch Organization, fixed and mobile network operators globally are deploying IPv6 and starting to report notable IPv6 traffic generation. In April 2014, ranges among service providers varied from up to 49% of network traffic with Verizon Wireless, over 37% at France’s Free Telecom, nearly 25% at Romania’s RCS and RDS, almost 18% at AT&T, and nearly 12% of all traffic at KDDI. (source: World IPv6 Launch Organization)
Also, most of the devices nowadays are IPv6 compatible with a steady increase projected over the next five years with nearly 50% of all fixed and mobile devices/connections projected as IPv6-capable in 2018, up from 16% in 2013. Globally, 80% of smartphones and tablets will be IPv6-capable by 2018, up from 43% in 2013 and there will be 3.9 Billion IPv6-capable smartphones and tablets by 2018, up from 882 Million in 2013. 94% of laptops will be IPv6-capable in 2018, reaching 797 million and 34% of M2M connections will be IPv6-capable in 2018, reaching 2.4 billion (source: Cisco VNI Forecast).
So yes, there is a steady, ever deepening , hum of global IPv6 deployments occurring in the background with a crescendo coming forthwith in the near future with all our networks and devices soon becoming IPv6 capable.
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