IPv6 appears to have found a new killer app: business continuity.
This replacement for the Internet's main communications protocol has been searching for a business driver that would propel ISPs and enterprises to make investments and upgrades since it was created 15 years ago.
At the North American IPv6 Summit being held in Denver this week, IPv6 experts seem to have converged around the idea that business continuity is going to be that reason CIOs finally purchase IPv6 products and services.
"We've seen a ridiculous spike in actual deployments of IPv6 in the enterprise around the Internet edge," said Shannon McFarland, principal engineer for data center technologies in Cisco's consulting engineering team. "Customers are doing Internet edge deployments for business continuity."
"If you do not establish a presence on the IPv6 Internet, you will be isolated. At the end of the day, it's a business continuity issue," agreed Yannick Pouffary, a distinguished technologist at HP.
Tom Coffeen, IPv6 Evangelist at Infoblox, said the top three reasons enterprises should care about deploying IPv6 are: risk management, business continuity, and business agility. "Any sudden, unplanned IPv6 adoption would result in service interruptions and uncontrolled costs," he explained.
Until now, there has been no single, compelling reason for ISPs and enterprises to upgrade to IPv6, which is not backward-compatible with the original version of the Internet Protocol known as IPv4.
IPv4 needs an upgrade because it is running out of address space for hooking up new subscribers and devices. IPv6 solves this problem with an expanded addressing scheme that can support billions of devices connected directly to the Internet.
The timeframe for IPv6 upgrades is fast approaching. Last year, the Asia Pacific region depleted all but a small reserve of its IPv4 address space, while Europe is expected to run out of IPv4 addresses this spring. The latest projection is that North America will deplete its share of IPv4 addresses by early 2013.
BACKGROUND: No More IPv4 Addresses
Network operators need to upgrade their routing, edge, security, network management, analytics, and other systems in order to support both IPv4 and IPv6 in what's called dual-stack mode. The alternative is for network operators to translate between IPv4 and IPv6, but that adds latency and overhead cost.