The supply of IPv4 addresses has become depleted as more devices connect to the Internet. The need for more IP addresses has increased and is driving the transition to IPv6. Despite several attempts to generate global awareness (IPv6 day in 2011) and encourage action (IPv6 mandate in June 2012), the adoption rate and readiness to adopt IPv6 has only increased slowly.
In 2012, Curtin University surveyed the top 180 IT users within corporations, state and federal government departments and not-for-profit organisations in Australia on the transition to IPv6. This research uncovered high awareness of IPv6, with 91% of respondents having heard of the term before the survey. But alarmingly only 27% believed the transition to IPv6 to be urgent, with 52% asserting that it was not urgent. Essentially, more than half of those surveyed are unprepared for IPv6.
Over a year has passed since this research and not much has changed in Australia. The Cisco IPv6 Lab recently generated a report on global IPv6 adoption based on public research and Cisco’statistics. The table below outlines the top 20 countries with highest IPv6 readiness.
|World IPv6 Readiness, The Top 20|
The top five are made up of Switzerland, Romania, Luxembourg, France and Germany. Australia fails to make the top 20, and comes in at number 22, with a relative readiness score of 3.1. Australia’s IPv6 deployment level - made up of three separate variables - the IPv6 prefix, the Transit AS and web content - is at 19.36%, which is significantly lower than the other countries on the list.
Why is IPv6 readiness in Australia so low?
Peter Dell uncovered the main reasons for low IPv6 adoption in a survey by Curtin University.
- Firstly, there is a lack of businesses providing IPv6 expertise, training or consulting services.
- Secondly, the perceived need for IPv6 in the organisations surveyed is very low. With 17% of respondents believing that they have adequate IPv4 connectivity, and 21% believing that the Network Address Translation (NAT) would solve their problem and connect networks to the Internet through a single address, their need for IPv6 is not high and will not compel them to take action. Hence the low readiness level.
What are the consequences of this low level of readiness?
Those who choose to rely on NAT, according to Dell, will face a set of problems as NAT imposes constraints on the services that can be offered to the internet, and does not scale well, disrupting the business and ultimately driving up the ownership cost of a network.
So with the rapid exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, Dell suggests that the low readiness level will cause a significant problem for Australia’s Information and Communications Technology industry, where organisations will be obliged to deploy IPv6 without proper planning, understanding or training.
Businesses may be backed into a corner when IPv4 addresses run out, and as a last resort, be forced to develop ad-hoc network intermediation devices that attempt to close the gap of a broken end-to-end network architecture, which could only result in chaos in their network.
How to avoid the gap
- Understand the negative impact of not transitioning to IPv6 and share this with your stakeholders
Without a problem, there is no real need for a solution. It is only when stakeholders are made aware of the risks they are putting their business in by not adopting IPv6 that they will seriously consider deploying it.
- Identify the benefits of IPv6 adoption
List out the benefits you will get out of the transition and communicate this with the stakeholders and the entire organisation to encourage a smooth transition.
- Commence IPv6 planning
Deploying IPv6 involves a series of technical steps that cannot be determined at the last minute. The IT department needs to understand these steps well and plan ahead, perhaps building a procedure for when the time comes to execute.
- Develop a long-term IPv6 strategy
In most cases, for a certain period of time, organisations will be using both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. It is necessary to take this into account in the plans to ensure both can run smoothly.
- Audit your devices, applications and contracts
Ensure that your business, devices and applications are IPv6 compliant. Determine the steps to be taken to enable IPv6 and consider the effects of enabling IPv6 on the user experience. Most importantly, ensure your suppliers can support IPv6 and discuss the processes involved in managing the transition.
- Ensure the availability of IPv6 skills
IPv6 skills are scarce and there will be a significant jump in demand for those with these skills. Acquire the right skills or train your IT staff in IPv6. Make sure they understand its features and processes, and how they differ from IPv4.