IPv6 finally builds momentum

18 June 2012 | Guest

The official launch of IPv6 earlier this month is another underwhelming reminder that the protocol upgrade grinds on at the pace of continental drift.

The new IPv6 system will provide a maximum of 340 undecillion addresses (1 undecillion equals 10 followed by 35 zeros in the British numbering system), 160 billion times more than IPv4, which we can safely assume means there will be enough IP addresses for the foreseeable future.

This time last year, a worldwide 24 hour trial of IPv6 (also imaginatively named IPv6 World Day) attempted to prove that the industry was collectively ramping up its efforts to encourage the transition to the new IP architecture ahead of the impending IPv4 depletion date.

What actually happened was a handful of enthusiastic carriers spent the day boasting about how their networks were already able to support IPv6, while the rest looked on despondently. Back then many industry insiders suggested that the IPv4 doomsday prophecy wouldn’t provide a strong enough incentive for many carriers to confront the complexity and cost surrounding the deployment of new IP architecture. They said that carriers would only make the jump if the content jumped first.

In the weeks leading up to June 6 2012, the likes of Netflix and Facebook switched on their IPv6 functionality and IPv6 traffic in the US subsequently hit record highs. Data from broadband networking equipment company, Sandvine, helped show why. The company claims to analyse the share of native IPv6 traffic on a major fixed-access network in the US, and as a result discovered that YouTube is the most important driver of IPv6 traffic (with a 57% share), followed by Netflix (36%), Facebook and its CDN network (1.15% and 2.7%), and Google.com (1.42%).

It seems the OTT players are finally offering carriers some real incentive to deploy new IP architecture, and that the switch to IPv6 could be about to gain serious momentum.

Alex Hawkes, Deputy Editor