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IPv6: Still on the Radar

18 June 2012

This is a guest post by Axel Pawlik, Managing Director of the RIPE NCC. The RIPE NCC is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.

For many of us in the technical community, it feels like we’ve been talking about the need to adopt IPv6 for years.

The RIPE NCC – the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia – made our first IPv6 allocation back in 1999. The ‘Internet of things’ was first being talked about, mobile networking was starting to gather pace and we were catching a first glimpse of how these developments could change the world.

Although supplies of IPv4 address space were still plentiful at this point, we already knew that the 4.3 billion available IPv4 addresses would not be able to keep up with Internet development. We set about informing anyone who would listen about IPv6, the next generation of Internet addressing, which massively increased the number of IP addresses and would ensure that the Internet could grow and expand well into the future.

Permanently Enabled

Fast forward to 2012 and we may finally be reaching a tipping point; the moment at which deploying IPv6 moves from being something that should be done to something that must be done as soon as possible or run the risk of having parts of the Internet becoming unreachable to millions of future users.

Building on the success of the World IPv6 Day held in 2011, the World IPv6 Launch event was held on 6 June 2012 and resulted in some of the world’s biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content distribution networks permanently enabling IPv6 access for their sites and services, bridging one of the most significant gaps on the road to universal IPv6 access.

Some of the data we collected during the World IPv6 Launch, as well as our experts’ analysis of it, is available on the RIPE Labs website.

An Issue For All Stakeholders

But progress in the global deployment of IPv6 is not limited to the technical community. The public sector has made some great strides over the last few years in recognising the importance of IPv6 deployment in ensuring that their national and cross-border industries are prepared for the future.

The RIPE community has been hard at work drafting an updated version of a best practice document on “Requirements for IPv6 in ICT Equipment” which specifically targets public sector and large enterprise network operators. And, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has published a document on “Deploying IPv6”.

Just this month, the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) IPv6 Group brought its activities to a close, noting the important collaborations already being undertaken by public sector players in emerging markets and technical organisations including the RIPE NCC and the other RIRs.

Education, Outreach and Capacity Building

However, it’s the hands-on network building that is vital to successful IPv6 deployment for all sectors. IPv6 compatibility means little without the education and knowledge sharing to set up networks that use IPv6 and can connect to the IPv4 Internet.

This has increased the importance of programs like the IPv6 Roadshow, an initiative from the Middle East Network Operators’ Group (MENOG) and the RIPE NCC that brings together international technical trainers and local government and enterprise network operators for 3-5 day practical workshops. The RIPE NCC has also been providing IPv6 Training Courses to our members free of charge since 2009, and offering comprehensive information about IPv6 deployment on our http://www.ipv6actnow.org website.

Meanwhile, a global awareness campaign continues to build pace, with the Internet technical community attending technical and non-technical events and conferences around the world to talk about the urgent need for IPv6 deployment for every kind of Internet stakeholder.

We have developed a packed agenda for the IPv6 session which takes place at 09:00 on 28 June at the upcoming ICANN 44 Meeting in Prague, Czech Republic. Alongside presentations on IPv6 allocation and deployment statistics, there’ll be talks on the World IPv6 Launch, and IPv6 deployment experiences from the cc-TLD operator and government perspectives. APNIC’s Chief Scientist, Geoff Huston, will also be talking about how he sees the evolution of the IPv6 Internet.

Building on this kind of outreach is vital to ensuring that the global deployment of IPv6 continues to gather pace. With one RIR (APNIC) already only able to assign small amounts of IPv4 space from their last portion of IPv4 space (the so-called "last /8") and the RIPE NCC set to hit our own last /8 in the coming months, we are beginning to see real progress in the deployment of IPv6. However, there is still a long way to go until we can ensure that future reachability of the Internet is guaranteed for new and existing Internet users; the time to act on global IPv6 deployment is now.