significant developments in IPv6 and network systemsA few months ago, we ran an article about the future of network architecture in the face of IPv6 adoption. Since then, there have been significant developments in the shift from v4 to v6, including several news stories about major international organizations preparing themselves for the obsolescence of IPv4. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), announced last month that it had officially issued its last block of free IPv4 space, the latest iteration of Apple’s OS X and iOS both feature prominent IPv6 support, and British Telecom has announced plans to convert its entire network to IPv6 by the end of 2016. In this follow-up blog, we’ll take a look at what’s happened on the IPv6 front over the past few months, and whether or not we’re any closer to the infamous IPocalypse.

ARIN has officially run out of unused IPv4 addresses.

Last month, ARIN announced that its last block of unused IPv4 addresses had been officially depleted. ARIN, which acts as the regional internet registry for most of North America, will continue to process IPv4 requests through wait-lists and the existing transfer market, but it is encouraging users to deploy IPv6 as soon as possible in order to adjust to the next phase of the public internet. Over the past few months, organizations who qualified for large IP address block sizes have been given the choice of either accepting a smaller block size, joining a waiting list for currently-in-use IPv4 addresses to become available, or withdrawing their request altogether. However, considering the fact that IPv6 internet will make dedicated IPv4 devices obsolete before long, it seems counter-intuitive to invest in addresses that will be outclassed by new technology within the space of a few years. In the words of ARIN board chairman Vint Cerf, “When we designed the Internet 40 years ago, we did some calculations and estimated that 4.3 billion terminations ought to be enough for an experiment. Well, the experiment escaped the lab… It needs room to grow and that can only be achieved through the deployment of IPv6 address space.”

Apple’s new algorithms in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan make IPv6 connectivity easier

The release of Apple’s new iterations of OS X and iOS features an updated version of the Happy Eyeballs algorithm, which makes it easier for dual-stack applications to understand imperfect IPv6 setups and be more responsive to users. Essentially, the Happy Eyeballs algorithm establishes which protocol will be better for a particular connection by trying both in parallel, with a preference for IPv6. While it’s not an outright shift to v6, this implementation should go a long way towards addressing the problem of many IPv6 networks being unreachable from parts of the internet. According to this blog on Cloudflare, there was already a small but significant increase – a little over 1% – in the number of IPv6 requests in the few days since iOS 9’s debut compared with the number of IPv6 requests across iOS 8’s entire lifecycle. That’s a pretty huge difference in the space of just a few days, to say the least.

Facebook reports increasing IPv6 traffic on mobile and desktop internet.

In a video presentation last month, Facebook software engineer Paul Saab announced that IPv6 traffic now accounts for around 50% of all their 4G mobile traffic in the United States. Global IPv6 traffic has also increased tenfold over the past three years, up from just 1% in 2012 to 10% in 2015. American telecoms giant Verizon also announced that IPv6 smartphone traffic has hit around 50% on their network. Comcast, the United States’ major cable provider, reported that IPv6 adoption is around 25% and growing, which shows that it’s not only mobile networks driving the increase in v6 traffic.

Current- and next-generation mobile networks are becoming increasingly IPv6-dependent.

Cisco’s 2014-2019 whitepaper on mobile data traffic makes some startling predictions about the state of the mobile network in the coming years. At the end of last year, there were already more mobile-connected devices than the total population of Earth, and by 2019 a projected 11.5 billion devices will be on the mobile internet – around 1.5 mobile devices per capita when factoring in the projected population at that time. With the mobile network accounting for an increasingly hefty portion of the public internet, the need for mobile IPv6 support couldn’t be clearer. The mobile internet also represents some of the fastest-growing segments, such as Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, and being prepared for the exponential increase in users will depend largely on how ready the mobile network is for IPv6 implementation. The proposed fifth-generation (5G) mobile network, which should begin rolling out some time around 2020, will feature built-in IPv6 support to cater for the ever-increasing number of internet-connected devices. In addition to the dramatically increased addressing space that IPv6 will provide, another primary reason for its adoption in mobile is the rising expectation for internet service to be equal across any devices used to access it. In his video presentation last month, Paul Saab said that after extensive training and analysis, they were able to confirm that IPv6 traffic was up to 15% faster than IPv4, citing the removal of Network Address Translation (NAT) as a primary reason for this.

Preparing your network systems for IPv6 is becoming a priority as we move into the next phase of the public internet. IRIS Network Systems can help you optimise your network architecture for IPv6, as well as provide training and consultation services to ensure that your network system delivers peak performance at all times. To find out more about how we can help you gear your network for the future, download our free Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Network.


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