"There was a lot of concern that things would be broken, but the overwhelming majority of participants [in World IPv6 Day] had a positive experience," says Greg Hankins, Global Solutions Architect for Brocade, which has supported IPv6 on its website, email and customer support infrastructure for more than a year. "I don't think I've seen a single horror story or really negative implementation experience from anyone, which speaks a lot about the maturity of IPv6 and the maturity of IPv6 implementations by various switching, routing and appliance vendors."
An estimated 20 percent of World IPv6 Day participants had such a positive experience with the new protocol that they left it up and running on their public-facing websites after the experiment was over. For example, Blue Coat left IPv6 enabled on its main website, and Cisco left IPv6 enabled on its www.scansafe.com website.
"We had a little over 1 percent of our users and traffic, our unique visitors, coming to the cisco.com website over IPv6. That's pretty consistent with the rest of the industry," Fiocco says. "That represents a couple of tens of thousands of unique visitors in 24 hours. None of them had any big, serious problems... For users in the U.S., performance in IPv6 was exactly equivalent to IPv4."
The only disappointment for Cisco was that it was expecting 2 percent of its overall traffic at www.cisco.com to be IPv6 on World IPv6 Day instead of 1 percent. "That's probably something we need to focus on for the next phase: working with the ISPs so that they enable the eyeballs," Fiocco says.
IPv6 solves the problem of IPv4 address depletion by offering a virtually limitless pool of IP addresses that can be used by computers, smartphones, home appliances, gaming devices and all sorts of sensors and actuators that have yet to be invented. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports 2 to the 128th power devices.
One problem is that IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4. So network operators and content providers must support both protocols in a side-by-side configuration known as dual stack. Most carriers and enterprises will solve that problem by deploying network address translation (NAT) devices, which convert inbound IPv6 traffic into IPv4 traffic so IPv6-based users can access existing IPv4-based content and services.
Another problem is that few Internet users have IPv6 access today. This was evident on World IPv6 Day, which was a success for participating content providers but failed to draw as much IPv6 traffic as planners had hoped. The percentage of overall Internet traffic supporting IPv6 doubled on World IPv6 Day, but it still failed to reach even a quarter of 1 percent of Internet traffic, Arbor Networks said.
"There isn't a lot of access ability for customers, for subscribers or individuals, to give them a direct IPv6 globally scoped address to get them to IPv6 content," says Rob Malan, co-founder and CTO of Arbor Networks. "Almost all IPv6 traffic gets converted and then goes to the IPv4 content."