IPv6 knowledge is ‘all over the map,’ CIRA says

Whether IT leaders yet realize it, they form part of a supply chain when it comes to IPv6 readiness, according to Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Registration Authority president Byron Holland.

“The supply chain goes from the end consumer on the street right up to the telco backbone,” the CIRA chief said Tuesday about the next-generation addressing scheme. “Along the way, there are a number of distinctive players along the supply chain.”

Even if Canadian carriers do all the work required for them to get IPv6-enabled, businesses and individual consumers also must refresh their existing networking technologies, Holland said. For enterprises, that also means enabling their Web servers and routers for the shift.

The advice comes on the heels of CIRA’s inaugural Canadian Internet Forum, which was held last week in Ottawa.

The organization, which manages Canada’s .ca domain name registry, partnered with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Media Awareness Network to discuss the future of the Internet in Canada. Attendees included a mix of government workers, private sector IT professionals, vendors, and consumers.

But even within this audience of users, many of which are relatively sophisticated about all things Internet, attendees were “all over the map” on their level of understanding of IPv6.

The new Internet Protocol standard is needed because the Internet is running out of IP addresses that use the existing IPv4 standard. The pool of 32-bit IPv4 addresses, which can support 4.3 billion devices, has been all but depleted. The IPv6 standard uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices.

For organizations that are still lagging on the issue, Holland advised IT leaders to start taking stock of their own infrastructure and Web presence. “Anything that’s IPv4 only needs to be clearly identified and needs a replacement strategy,” he said.

Holland added that CIOs and IT managers must stress the serious implications of being unprepared for IPv6 when communicating with non-tech business leaders.

“They really need to know that there’s a significant portion of people coming online that are only going to have IPv6,” he said. “They won’t be able to find your Web sites and interact with your firewalls if you only have IPv4 gear.”

Going forward, he added, IPv4-only shops will be invisible to any customers new to the Internet.

Sally Wentworth, regional bureau manager covering North America for the non-profit online standards advocacy group Internet Society, was a speaker at the CIRA event. Her organization is also helping to organize and support World IPv6 Day later this summer.

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 the June 8 global-scale trial of IPv6, the upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol IPv4.

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.

For Wentworth, because the level of understanding and preparedness varies so much across the IT community, the goal of the event will be to get more companies and consumers simply talking about the shift.

“We’d like to see the global Internet community test their readiness and expose potential issues in a controlled environment,” she said. “Hopefully it will motivate organizations to get a dialogue going and exchange best practices.”

– With files from Howard Solomon

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