One of the key issues for CIOs to monitor is the rate at which wireless and broadband carriers provide their new subscribers with IPv6 addresses. A major driver for IPv6 is Verizon's new LTE network, which requires that all devices support IPv6. Meanwhile, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and other U.S. broadband providers have ongoing IPv6 trials. These carriers will give IPv6 addresses to their new customers, but it will be a long time before they upgrade all of their existing customers to IPv6. So content providers must support both protocols for the foreseeable future.
"The content side is the easy side of the problem. The harder question is: How soon will you have a massive amount of IPv6 clients who need to get to you?" Malan said. "Think about the Linksys modem in your house. There are oodles of crusty old stuff out there that needs to get upgraded. That problem is hard and expensive."
Experts agree that CIOs need to tread carefully where IPv6 is concerned. For now, they only need to worry about IPv6-enabling their public-facing websites and Web services. They don't need to worry about upgrading anything behind the firewall on their private corporate networks.
The drop dead deadline for IPv6
When do a company's public-facing websites and services need to be IPv6-enabled in order to prevent them from being unreachable to Internet users with IPv6 addresses? Nobody knows for sure when a significant number of IPv6-only users will emerge, but experts say this upgrade needs to be done within the next 18 months.
John Curran, president of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which doles out IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to network operators in North America, has said the drop dead deadline for U.S. enterprises to support IPv6 on their websites is Jan. 1, 2012.
"It needs to be a priority by the end of the year," Hankins agrees. "That coincides with ARIN running out of IPv4 space by the end of the year or early next year, and it also coincides with LTE deployment. LTE is one of the major drivers for IPv6 because they are expected from the beginning to use native IPv6 support in terms of having users access online processes."
The U.S. federal government has established Sept. 30, 2012 as its deadline for all public-facing government websites to support IPv6. Federal agencies have a second deadline of Sept. 30, 2014 to upgrade internal client applications that communicate with public Internet servers to use native IPv6.
Alain Durand, director of software engineering at Juniper, says CIOs have at most 18 months to get their Web content ready for IPv6-only customers. Juniper offers a special purpose website for IPv6 users - ipv6.juniper.net — today, and it supported IPv6 on its main website, www.juniper.net, for World IPv6 Day using its own routers and carrier-grade NAT gear that it calls translator-in-the-cloud.