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When the switchover from Analog to digital television started, the promise of more content and clearer images was the compelling event that saw the switchover occur in most countries.



Not so with IPv6. Apart from a larger pool of addresses, there is no significant benefit to the end user, which is why so many nations have dragged their feet when it comes to IPv6 readiness. Only this month the Ripe NCC, which is responsible for address allocation in Europe, is rationing an allocation of 1024 IP addresses to any organisation requesting IPv4 schema expansion. It would seem the older addressing scheme is still alive. 


What was supposed to happen by now, was that every Internet website, all Internet carriers and ISPs should have adopted a parallel IPv6 schema, and upgraded their existing hardware and management tools to support both protocols.The trouble is that the world’s largest two users, China and the United States have lagged behind IPv6 adoption, this in turn has turned down the heat for other nations, who have adopted a wait and see approach.


I can understand the reluctance of ISPs and carriers to switch existing networks over to IPv6. Today, modern carrier networks are a multitude of complexity with interconnect routes carefully tuned to avoid asymmetrical and routing loops. These networks are a balancing act of routing protocols and proven combination of both hardware and software. Even though most carriers will admit to being ready, the switchover to IPv6 will not be as simple as flicking a switch.


There will be weeks if not months of global Internet instability as network engineers begin the tedious task of optimising routes for the new network addressing structure.  Even greenfield operators have a headache. Even if they deploy IPv6 immediately, they will still need to encapsulate IPv4 addresses to allow real time media like skype to work. Furthermore, they will also need to operate a dual DNS environment, all of which adds yet another layer of support headache.

Any complete switch over is dependant on the content owners. All websites, DNS and content farm providers should be supporting both standards in parallel, and once this happens, the tier 1 carriers should also follow, given that there is not a single governing body of the Internet coordinating this activity on a global scale, will be almost impossible.

The IPv6 switchover is like watching a slow motion train wreck, everyone is in agreement that something needs to be done, but there is a reluctance to take action due to the anticipated instability which is likely to occur. Hence, it seems the strategy is to wait until the address allocation agencies hang closed signs on the door before action is taken at a global level.

By Craig Sutherland


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