For last two decades, the demise of IPv4 has been predicted as the IP protocol reaches saturation, writes James Karimi, Senior Vice President Engineering at GTT.
Since the number of IP addresses available under this protocol could not be expanded to serve the increasing number of connected machines, IPv6 has been devised with an unlimited number of addresses.
A full-scale migration did not transpire for various reasons, including:
1) Enterprise concerns that IPv6 was less efficient and slower than IPv4;
2) Insufficiently trained IT staff on IPv6;
3) The requirement for a comprehensive review of the internal network and its security as a pre-condition for an IPv6 deployment.
According to a study by ARCEP, an independent French agency in charge of regulating telecommunications in France, only 5 percent of email servers and 16 percent of domain names (.fr, .re, .yt, and .wf) are accessible via IPv6.
Implementation of IPv6
Total saturation of IPv4 addresses is predicted for the 2020-to-2021 timeframe, according to the ARCEP study. This prediction is based on the availability of IPv4 addresses by RIPE, the regional registry in charge of the allocation of IP addresses in Europe, which expects the stock of IPv4 addresses will run out in 2021.2 When that date arrives, the hosting companies will have no choice but to turn to IPv6, which will provoke a bifurcation of the internet into IPv4 sites and IPv6 sites. The result will be those Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that are not offering IPv6 will be forced to deny their customers usage of a part of the web.
Everything is ripe for accelerating the IPv6 transition. The scarcity of IPv4 addresses is driving an increase in their cost while IPv6 addresses are free. Additionally, device manufacturers developing Internet of Things (IoT) applications are opting for IPv6, as each object must have its own IP address.
Market trends, such as IoT, are driving continued growth in IP traffic. It is expected that the amount of IP traffic generated in 2022 will be larger than the first 32 years of the internet cumulative traffic. This dramatic increase in traffic has several sources:
1) The explosion of M2M traffic (Machine-to-Machine) connected objects (IoT) traffic will drive an increase in global internet traffic in the range of 3.1 percent to 6.4 percent.
2) The incremental IP traffic generated by SD-WAN is expected to increase in proportion of total IP WAN traffic from 9 percent to 29 percent, which converts to 5.3 EB of IP traffic in 2022.
Technical Means to Overcome the IPv4 Shortage
As IPv6 becomes more prevalent in enterprises through M2M, connected objects, and SD-WAN, choosing the IP connectivity operator will be crucial. There are many vendors and providers to select from. Only a small subset of this group offers a dual-stack solution (IPv6 and IPv4 dual-stack native).
Many players in the ISP segment are aware of the issues and the urgency to act. However, as long as there are the technical means to overcome the IPv4 addressing shortage, such as creating gateways with shared IPv4 for several connected machines, and there are no regulatory mandates to cutover to IPv6, the migration to IPv6 will be slowed.
A migration to IPv6 has other benefits beyond increasing the number of available IP addresses. IPv6 simplifies some network layer functions such as routing and mobility, and offers better security options through better thought engineering and a more adapted IPsec protocol management. Due to the almost limitless number of available addresses, IPv6 would be more efficient than IPv4 for video delivery and would simplify the internal addressing of high-performance computing centers.
Today, in the United States, an estimated 40 percent of enterprises have adopted IPv6. In Europe, countries leading the IPv6 adoption are Belgium (61 percent), Germany (47 percent), Greece (38 percent), and France (27 percent).
By 2022, 18.3 billion fixed and mobile networked devices will be IPv6 compliant, and 60 percent of IPv6-compatible devices will be connected to an IPv6 network; representing 38 percent of the global internet traffic. (There were only 6 billion devices connected in 2017.)
Hence the importance of choosing an internet operator with IPv6 capability. Any provider of Tier1 IPv4 connectivity must have equivalent IPv6 capability — that is, the operator cannot purchase IPv6 traffic from another Tier 1 ISP. Only a Tier 1 IPv4 and Tier 1 IPv6 operator, offering a native dual-stack architecture, can offer its customers the security and peace of mind of routing traffic to their applications.