IPv6 is an essential technology if the Internet is to grow, but adoption has been slow. Graeme Caldwell of Interworx takes a look at why organizations are holding back on IPv6.
Guest blog post by Graeme Caldwell
We stand on the cusp of an explosion in the number of Internet-connected devices. The mobile revolution was just the beginning. Combined, the burgeoning wearables market and the Internet of Things will potentially create billions of new connected devices over the next few years. Every device will need an IP address and there are far too few available addresses within the IPv4 system to handle the sheer quantity of connections. It’s a problem that’s been predicted and solved for many years, in theory at least. But IPv6 is being adopted at a glacially slow pace.
The reasons for the gradual adoption are simple to understand. It’s expensive. The Internet is made up of tens of millions of servers, routers, and switches that were designed to work with IPv4. Upgrading that infrastructure entails a significant capital investment. As things stand, workarounds like NAT take some of the pressure off — but they are a temporary band-aid solution. In the long-term, transition to IPv6 will have to happen, but, given the level of the required investment, there’s not a compelling business argument to make the transition immediately.
To get the full benefit of IPv6, a significant proportion of the net’s infrastructure has to support it, and, with the exception of a few organizations, many don’t want to invest in infrastructure upgrades that don’t have any immediate benefit.
When they were developing IPv6, the Internet Engineering Task Force decided that, in order to implement new features in IPv6, the protocol would not be backward compatible with IPv4. IPv6 native devices are not capable of straightforwardly communicating with IPv4 devices. That makes incremental updating of systems difficult, because workarounds have to be put in place to ensure that legacy hardware and newer IPv6 hardware have a way of talking to each other — most IPv4 hardware will never be updated.
According to Leslie Daigle, Former Chief Internet Technology Officer for the Internet Society, “The lack of real backwards compatibility for IPv4 was the single critical failure. There were reasons at the time for doing that. But the reality is that nobody wants to go to IPv6 unless they think their friends are doing it, too.”
Forward thinking software companies have already included the necessary functionality to handle IPv6 in their products. At InterWorx, we could have left implementing IPv6 support until we absolutely had to, but the benefits of the transition for us and our users in the web hosting industry were undeniable. We wanted to give clients the option of using IPv6 so they can begin to prepare for the inevitable move and implement IPv6 systems. InterWorx includes a full suite of IPv6 management tools, including IPv6 pools management, IPv6 clustering, and diagnostic tools.
In a Feburary 2014 report, Google revealed that their IPv6 traffic had hit 3 percent and it’s currently at about 4 percent. That seems unimpressive, but it’s a sign that adoption rates are accelerating — the move from 2 percent to 3 percent took only 5 months and from 3 percent to 4 percent even less time. Under pressure from the proliferation of connected devices, we can expect to see organizations adopting IPv6 ever more quickly.
Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog.