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Enterprises haven't implemented IPv6, despite hype

Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) implementation has not been adopted by enterprises, despite hype.

Only a handful of companies are interested in deploying Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), and even fewer currently have it in use, according to recent research from TheInfoPro, a New York-based firm.

As part of its latest Wave 2 Networking Report, TheInfoPro found that only 5% of organizations have IPv6 in use today. The research also discovered that only 18% have expressed some interest in adopting IPv6 for their infrastructure over the next 12 to 18 months. Those findings were based on 126 hour-long interviews with networking professionals from Fortune 1000 and midsized enterprises.

According to Bill Trussell, managing director of TheInfoPro's networking sector, the results show that although there is considerable hype fueling the great IPv6 debate, very few companies are buying into it.

"Contrary to popular opinion, research from TheInfoPro indicated very few enterprises see a need to upgrade their network backbones to IPv6 in the near term," Trussell said. "Networking technology providers are gearing up for the conversion to IPv6; however, it is very clear … that an overwhelming majority of enterprises do not want the new protocol until IPv6 is fully understood and justified."

IPv6, the latest version of Internet Protocol, is said to provide more IP addresses than the current version, IPv4. It also supports auto-configuration to help correct most of the shortcomings in version 4 and has integrated security and mobility features. IPv6 also does away with Network Address Translation (NAT).

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Networking pros and experts have battled back and forth on whether there is a need for IPv6, but for the most part they have agreed that it should be on companies' radar screens moving forward, as a kind of insurance policy.

"The bottom line is no one really sees the need at this point in time," Trussell said. "They don't see the benefit. They don't think it's mature enough. I've yet to hear anyone be able to outline why [an enterprise] should do this. There has to be a real, concrete, tangible benefit to implanting IPv6, and that's yet to emerge."

Earlier this year, Silvia Hagen, CEO of Switzerland-based Sunny Connection AG and a site expert, said companies should be prepared for IPv6 but not necessarily looking at immediate deployment. Hagen, who is also a founding member of the Swiss IPv6 task force, warned companies to avoid sinking big money into fixing or extending IPv4 and suggested they put that money into IPv6. That, she said, will save money down the road.

Hagen has said that companies should consider switching to IPv6 sooner rather than later if:

  • They want to gather experience though it is not yet business critical.
  • They run out of IPv4 address space.
  • They need end-to-end security they can't get through NAT.
  • They want to deploy VoIP and stumble with NAT.
  • They want to use an application that uses IPv6 features and is not available for IPv4.
  • They want to use mobile IPv6.
  • They need to upgrade their backbone and switching hardware anyway, and can use that as an opportunity to turn on IPv6 at the same time.

Trussell agreed but noted that many companies are not convinced that IPv6 is necessary. There is, however, a strong push by vendors, which already have IPv6-ready products available.

Companies such as Nortel Networks, Cisco, 3Com Corp., HP, Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks, F5 Networks, Foundry Networks and Force10 Networks have already integrated IPv6 support into their existing IPv4 offerings, Trussell said. When Microsoft releases Vista, IPv6 will be set as the default TCP/IP protocol, though it can be turned off. Those vendors are ready to facilitate implementation should IPv6 adoption rates increase among enterprise customers.

"Clearly, the folks that are looking to profit off of the transition to IPv6 are talking about its benefits," Trussell said. "Enterprises need to look at who is saying what and what's their motivation."

The federal government is also under a mandate to put IPv6 in place within its agencies by June 2008. For some, that may also be further fueling the hype, he said, but a number of enterprises aren't going to deploy IPv6 simply because the government is doing so.

"The federal mandate alone may not be enough to convince the enterprise-at-large that a conversion to IPv6 is the best use of their time and budget," Trussell concluded.

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