This was the year that IPv6 garnered major headlines, but 2012 is expected to be the year when the next-generation Internet protocol gets widely deployed by U.S. carriers and enterprises.
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is called IPv4.
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IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme that can support billions of devices connected directly to the Internet. But IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4, which is running out of addresses. Network operators can either support both protocols in what's called dual-stack mode or translate between IPv4 and IPv6, which could add latency and overhead cost.
IPv6 was in the news more during the last 12 months than at any other time since the protocol was specified back in 1998:
- In February, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority delegated the last blocks of IPv4 address space to the regional Internet registries.
- In March, Microsoft spent $7.5 million to purchase around 600,000 IPv4 addresses from Nortel's bankruptcy sale.
- In April, the Asian regional registry APNIC used up all but a handful of IPv4 addresses that it is holding in reserve for start-up network operators.
- In June, more than 1,000 Web sites including Google, Yahoo and Facebook participated in a successful, 24-hour trial of IPv6 dubbed World IPv6 Day.
- In November, Comcast began its production roll-out of IPv6 services in the San Francisco area.
"There's been more news about IPv6 in the last 18 months than in the last decade," said John Brzozowski, chief architect for IPv6 and Distinguished Engineer with Comcast. Brzozowski made his remarks before an audience of CIOs, CTOs and other IT executives at a seminar called "The Critical Path to IPv6" held last week in New York City by Network World.
While there was much talk about IPv6 in 2011, experts say that IPv6 deployment will begin in earnest during 2012. That's because the reality of scarce IPv4 addresses is finally hitting home.