Though it lacked a high-profile event like 2012’s World IPv6 Launch, 2013 was still an eventful year for IPv6. As it stands, 2014 might prove the proverbial “calm before the storm” if IPv4 runs out in North America in 2015 as predicted. In any case, we should expect to see more slow but steady progress in the worldwide deployment of IPv6.
IPv4 has already been formally exhausted in Asia and Europe. For much of 2011 and 2012, projections of IPv4 rundown suggested that 2013 would be the year that North America exhausted its supply IPv4. Due to a number of factors, including grey market transfers of address space as well as perhaps a more cautious application of policy by ARIN (the Internet registry for the region), the estimated date of North American run out of IPv4 is now in early 2015. Of course, as with any scarce resource approaching its imminent exhaustion is subject to the phenomenon of rapid and unpredictable depletion, the date could always arrive sooner.
In any case, once North American exhaustion of IPv4 happens, expect much sky-is-falling industry media coverage. Resulting reactions from enterprise IT administrators will likely run the gamut from wary (or even smug) confidence in their IPv6 adoption planning and efforts to this point, to the shrugging of shoulders (likely the majority reaction), to outright weeping and gnashing of teeth as upper management decides and demands, in Veruca Salt-like fashion that “don’t care how” the organization in question must have “IPv6 now” (with no serious preparation for adoption having yet occurred).
Though in large part subsumed by arguably underwhelming statistics showing IPv6 as ~2% of overall Internet traffic, 2013 saw remarkable data points that, taken individually, suggest a watershed uptake of IPv6:
- Verizon Wireless traffic over IPv6 increased dramatically and now leads in IPv6 deployment among network operators at 40%
- Comcast (always at the bleeding edge of IPv6 adoption efforts) greatly increased its overall IPv6 deployment and ended the year with 20%
- According to Google, the percentage of IPv6-enabled web browsers tripled in 2013, going from 2% to 6%
As suggested above, uptake of IPv6 among enterprises is likely to be accelerated by the formal announcement of IPv4 exhaustion in North America. In the meantime (and with notable, high-profile exceptions), enterprises will continue to adopt IPv6 more slowly, with emphasis on first making websites and Internet-facing resources available over IPv6 while continuing to rely on NAT and private addressing internally.
The IPv6 Protocol
Now that IPv6 is beginning to see more substantial adoption levels across the Internet and in production environments, some aspects of the protocol itself are getting more scrutiny.
2013 saw a proposal to deprecate the IPv6 fragment header due to its resource-intensive nature at the application layer as well as its use as an attack vector (many firewalls are configured to drop IPv6 fragments). Of course, DNSSEC over UDP often relies on IPv6 fragmentation so deprecation before a workable alternative architecture is defined and deployed is unlikely. (And as we all know: as goes DNSSEC, so goes the Internet!).
In a boon for secure deployment of IPv6 in the enterprise, last year also saw the introduction of expanded first-hop security features from Cisco. These features complement Cisco IOS’s existing support for secure neighbor discovery (SeND) and attempt to make the local IPv6 segment more secure, perhaps in the absence of wide deployment of SeND. Commonly deployed host OS implementations of IPv6 continue to lack support for SeND and significant progress on this front seems unlikely in 2014 (though some external applications might make SeND feasible in the enterprise, if not scalable or manageable).
IPv6 and You
If you haven’t started your IPv6 adoption effort, the momentum suggested above might be cause for concern. But don’t panic! Check out our abundant knowledge resources on the topic to help you get started. And if you have started, let us know in the comments how things are going for you and what your plans for IPv6 are in 2014.