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IPv6 Reality Check

Added 1st Mar 2008

Article Highlights

  • Research firm Gartner estimates enterprise adoption of IPv6 at less than 1 percent.
  • A study by Cisco in 2006 cited the lack of dedicated funding and IT staff for IPv6 implementations.


One fact has become clear about IPv6, the next-generation Internet protocol developed to gradually replace the current IPv4: Adoption by US enterprises is not happening on Internet time. Even those who see potential in the technology, like Dan Demeter, CIO of talent management company Korn/Ferry International, are taking it slow. He plans to introduce IPv6 by 2010 as part of a worldwide network upgrade for his company. "We believe that [by] adopting IPv6 and restructuring our network routers and servers, we can deliver faster and more reliable and secure client solutions," Demeter says. Also, Korn/Ferry employees use BlackBerry mobile devices to access key company executive search data, and Demeter wants to explore the potential of IPv6 for providing additional mobile services. Among its top benefits, IPv6 promises a significant increase in the number of addresses available for networked devices such as mobile phones, and simpler administration of networks. But Demeter says Korn/Ferry is in the exploration stage, with no firm time frame for a pilot test. "Our approach is to focus on the areas where we can derive the most benefits and move ahead in gradual fashion as our experience grows and as we ensure that all the infrastructure components are compatible with IPv6." He's not alone. Federal government agencies are mandated by the Office of Management and Budget to move their network backbones to IPv6 by June 2008 - and so are the contractors that do business with agencies.


“We believe that [by] adopting IPv6 and restructuring our network routers and servers, we can deliver faster and more reliable and secure client solutions”

But outside that space, few organizations seem to be deploying the standard. Research firm Gartner estimates enterprise adoption at less than 1 percent. Should IPv6 be on your drawing board yet? Consider the key issues and the experiences of early adopters carefully.  Several factors are fueling the sluggish adoption rate. A study by Cisco in 2006 cited the lack of dedicated funding and IT staff for IPv6 implementations. Another hurdle: "The fact that IPv6 implementation is viewed more as a technology issue than a business benefits driver probably also is an obstacle to its immediate widespread adoption in the US," says Michael A. Gold, a senior partner in the litigation group of Los Angeles law firm Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro and co-chair of the firm's Discovery Technology Group. "This is very shortsighted in terms of global competition," Gold says. "In the not-too-distant future, many home appliances - even dog collars - will be Internet connected. Many automobiles are connected today. Each of these devices will require using an Internet address in order to communicate across the network." Quite simply, the system will run out of addresses some years from now without IPv6. Other countries, notably China, have pushed the implementation of IPv6 more aggressively than the United States.


Among the other possible benefits of IPv6, the technology enables a more simplified network architecture that removes network address translation devices. This clears the way for powerful peer-to-peer capabilities, says Erica Johnson, senior manager of software and applications and IPv6 consortium manager at the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory. The lab oversees the Moonv6 project, a global effort to test IPv6 equipment from different vendors. IPv6 also includes a greater amount of usable address space for additional nodes on the network, allowing better utilization of multi-user technologies such as VoIP, interactive video and collaborative applications, she notes. But Johnson concedes that even with the potential gains from IPv6, building a business case for adoption will be a challenge for many.

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