IPv4 Depletion Not Boosting IPv6 Adoption

Slow rate of adoption is caused by technical and design hurdles, lack of economic incentives, and a lack of IPv6 content, found Arbor Networks study.

Chandler Harris

April 20, 2011

3 Min Read
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Despite the fact that 95% of all Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses are already being used, the new frontier of IPv6 currently represents less than 1% of IP addresses, or 0.3% of all Internet traffic, according to a recent study by Arbor Networks.

The study of native IPv6 traffic across multiple large carriers found that the slow rate of adoption is caused by technical and design hurdles, lack of economic incentives, and a lack of IPv6 content, said Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks, in an interview.

"There's really been a number of catch 22s," Labovitz said. "Service providers don't want IPv6 because subscribers don't want it, subscribers don't want it until there is content, and the content providers don't want it unless there are subscribers. Plus, there haven't been financial motives and the technology is much slower to deploy and adopt than initially thought."

Even if end users have equipment supporting IPv6, they may have older versions of operating systems or firewall problems that will prevent access, Labovitz said.

On February 3, the last block of IPv4 addresses was allocated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to the five regional Internet registries. Some analysts have predicted that IPv4 addresses will be used up by mid-2012. Because of this, the Obama administration issued directives for all government agency IT networks to transition to IPv6 by 2012.

Yet private infrastructure has not had the same sense of urgency and this can cause problems for a company's IT plans and even put some companies at a competitive disadvantage. They may soon have to pay high premiums for the remaining blocks of addresses in IPv4 as they begin to run out, he said. Labovitz suggests companies should include IPv6 transition in their five-year plans. Contacting ISPs should be the first step.

The Arbor Networks research found that the majority (61%) of IPv6 traffic stems from peer-to-peer file sharing, specifically Utorrent, which uses IPv6 tunneling. However, the majority of IPv4 traffic comes from Netflix (20%), HTTP traffic (19%), and You Tube (12%), with file sharing traffic coming in at 8%, according to Arbor Networks.

Labovitz suggests that the upcoming World IPv6 Day on June 8 will bring more exposure to the importance of the IPv6 dilemma. The event features an Internet-wide consortium of major carriers, vendors, and content providers, including Google, Akamai, and Limelight, conducting the "first global-scale trial" of IPv6. One of the primary goals is to collect Internet-wide IPv6 measurements and identify connectivity and performance problems.

"World v6 Day represents the first global experiment in new Internet technologies," Labovitz wrote in a blog post about the study. "What will happen on v6 day? Will the flood of IPv6 traffic result in network failures? Will operators and vendors discover critical bugs in network infrastructure? As an industry, we're not sure--that is why this v6 day experiment is so crucial."

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