A global trial this summer of the IPv6 Internet protocol by some of the world’s biggest Web sites this summer has been applauded by a Canadian expert on the technology.
“I believe the World IPv6 day is an excellent initiative,” said Andree Toonk, network architect at BCNET, the research network in British Columbia. “Not only will it increase the IPv6 awareness, but it will also give content providers much needed real life high volume traffic.”
Some content providers have been testing use of the protocol on mirror sites. Toonk hopes the test will lead to more Web sites permanently using IPv6 addresses.
According to Network World U.S., several of the Internet’s most popular Web sites – including Facebook, Google and Yahoo – have agreed to participate in June 8 global-scale trial of IPv6, the upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol IPv4.
It isn’t known how many Canadian sites will participate.
IPv6 is needed because the Internet is running out of IP addresses that use the IPv4 standard. Toonk expects that in weeks the pool of IPv4 addresses will be depleted. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices.
The day-long IPv6 trial is a critical development for content providers such as Google and Facebook, which until now have been supporting IPv6 at separate, dedicated Web addresses rather than on their main traffic-heavy Web sites. Google, for example, says it will enable IPv6 on its main Web sites – including YouTube for World IPv6 Day.
The event is also a big deal for Yahoo, which has been reluctant to support IPv6 because of concerns about using a DNS whitelisting approach like Google’s, which provides IPv6 content only to users with known end-to-end IPv6 connectivity.
In order to participate in “World IPv6 Day,” companies must adopt a dual-stack deployment, which allows native IPv6 traffic to run alongside IPv4 traffic without shortcuts like whitelisting.
Because IPv6 is a fledgling technology, few enterprises have deployed it. Today, IPv6 represents less than one-twentieth of one per cent of overall Internet traffic according to Arbor Networks. One reason, says Toonk, is the lack of IPv6 content, which the test will partly remedy.
One issue is whether IPv6 will be up to the task of providing production-grade performance on such heavily trafficked sites.
The Internet Society estimates that a tiny minority of Internet users will experience slowdowns or have trouble connecting to participating Web sites during the trial because of misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, primarily in their home networks.
Of greater concern to Toonk are the seemingly few carriers offering IPv6 transit to independent Internet providers, who resell connectivity to consumers and businesses.
“In the resellers market, there’s no Canadian – or very limited Canadian – options to buy from,” he said.
Admittedly, he added, there may be little demand yet because ISPs would likely have to replace many modems in subscribers’ homes. Still, the day will soon be here when IPv4 addresses run out and ISPs have to make a decision on sticking with their current transit provider or a new one.
“If you have to do everything last minute, the implementations (of IPv6) will no be as good,” he warned.
Canadian transit providers are keeping their IPv6 strategies close. In an e-mail statement, a Telus spokesman said the Vancouver-based telco “is developing IPv6 services with both business and consumers in mind and will be ready for the eventual v6 adoption. I cannot comment on the specific preparations we’re undertaking, as our competitors would dearly like to know what they are.”