Web hosting vendor The Planet plans to offer in late 2008 commercial transit services that support IPv6, a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol.
IPv6 provides larger address space, built-in security, enhanced network management and new mobility features when compared to its predecessor, IPv4.
The Planet isn't the first Web hosting company to support IPv6, but it is believed to be the largest in the United States to do so. Hurricane Electric of Fremont, Calif. already offers IPv6 and IPv4 transit services.
The Planet will offer its hosting customers support for IPv6 and IPv4 simultaneously in what's called a dual-stack approach.
The Planet has more than 22,000 customers, primarily SMBs. The company hosts 6.7 million Web sites worldwide.
"One of the reasons The Planet is doing IPv6 is that IPv4 address space is in short supply," says Stan Barber, vice president, network operations at The Planet. "If you're going to be serving content to customers over most Web environments today ... you need unique globally addressable space, especially if you're sending out video streams. Eventually, getting that on an IPv4-type of environment is going to be limited while all of this address space is going to be available on IPv6. If, for example, a manufacturing company who has a Web site wants to be able to tap into the future, they're going to have to make their Web site available on both IPv4 and IPv6."
Barber admits that he isn't seeing a lot of demand for IPv6 services yet from The Planet's customers.
"People haven't been beating down our doors for IPv6, but there have been inquiries from our customers about IPv6," Barber says. "Our intent is to give them the capability to figure out what IPv6 will do for them beyond the additional address space."
The Planet says it will offer IPv6 services in late 2008. It will run a beta program earlier this year.
The Planet has teamed up with NTT America to offer the new IPv6 service. NTT was the first carrier in the United States to offer commercial IPv6 services, and it has been a leader in the development of new IPv6 offerings such as an IPv6-enabled managed firewall service.
"NTT has a history of good engineering support for both IPv4 and IPv6 transit, and they go to places where IPv6 is hot, such as Korea, Japan and China," Barber says.
The Planet is using Global Crossing as its secondary IPv6 carrier. Anytime The Planet offers a transit service, it uses two or more service providers for diversity, Barber said.
Michael Wheeler, vice president of sales at NTT America, said he hopes the introduction of more IPv6-enabled network services like The Planet's will help build momentum for IPv6 in the United States.
"We've seen IPv6 as being an important part of where the Internet is headed for quite awhile," Wheeler said. "From a global perspective, we understand the implications of IPv4 address limitations that are coming in the next couple of years. This is an additional functionality that The Planet brings to the table....We want to be able to power them to do that."