It’s World IPv6 Day again, but what does that mean?

Categories IPv6

World IPv6 day is next week, so everyone is talking about their IPv6 capabilities again. Everyone says they’re enabled, so why is there no IPv6 traffic? I’ve never seen anyone estimate that IPv6 traffic amounted to more than a small fraction of one percent of their total traffic. Where is the disconnect? What’s inhibiting meaningful IPv6 traffic? And most importantly, is there anything we can do as a member of the broader Internet community to make the average Internet user or business care? Should they even care?

At Limelight, we think the answer is yes. We think that there is a real risk to companies around business continuity as the IPv4 Internet starts fading. The rapidly diminishing number of IPv4 addresses will limit the number of end users and devices that connect to an organization’s digital presence. And having built one the world’s ten largest networks, we understand how critical a customer’s digital presence is to their business. We are doing our part in speeding the transition by ensuring that all customers, particularly subscriber networks and content providers, are IPv6 enabled. The sooner we can get the average Internet user transitioned to IPv6, the easier it will be to maintain the Internet as a unified global network and not disjointed islands.

And yet, there is a significant cost to enable IPv6. At Limelight, turning up IPv6 on the network back in 2009 was fairly straightforward. Most router vendors already had IPv6 capabilities, so it was pretty much a matter of enabling them. In a former life working at a carrier, the network was IPv6 enabled since 2003. But the tricky part of IPv6 enabling a CDN is actually getting DNS to work properly. ISPs probably have it the toughest. They have to not only IPv6 enable their networks and get DNS to work properly, but they have to deal with  getting CPEs (Customer Premises Equipment) configured properly, and they are ultimately responsible for getting their subscribers using IPv6 as well.

What’s an ISP to do with all the CPEs out there that aren’t IPv6 capable? Do they replace them? What about the support costs to configure them? Who pays for that? Ultimately, the consumer of course. What if the existing DNS infrastructure can’t run IPv6? Do all those servers get replaced? Again, the consumer or content producer would ultimately have to bear the brunt of that cost. And the kicker from a consumer perspective is, they want more, faster, better yet cheaper. Content producers want quality access to consumers, at high bandwidth, low latency, and with consistent network information. Essentially what has happened over the course of the last few years is a bunch of finger pointing in the Internet community.

Let’s face it; aside from the geeks that make the magic happen behind the scenes, no one wants to know how the Internet works. They just want it to work. Type in website, navigate to something interesting, and sit back and enjoy. Expecting billions of people to change settings on their computers, tablets, phones, refrigerators, watches, light bulbs, or even devices that haven’t been invented yet isn’t realistic. The only way to usher in the new era of IP based connectivity is to enable IPv6 by default on everything.

That is exactly what we are doing at Limelight. Starting this next IPv6 day, June 6th, new customers getting activated will also be IPv6 enabled by default. Instead of IPv6 being opt in, it will now be opt out. And to make sure our customers don’t have any financial reason to say no, there will be no additional charge for IPv6 services. We will let the social inertia of not having to make a decision build critical mass on the content side. While our brethren at the ISPs have done a fantastic job enabling IPv6, we can see on our DNS servers that there aren’t as many requests coming in as there should be, so maybe by us making this gesture, the hardware vendors, software vendors, and ISPs alike will make a more concerted effort to enable IPv6 by default as well.

- Guy Tal, Director of New Markets. You can connect with Guy on Twitter @guyavital.

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