Cerf: IPv6 'launch' was 20 years in the making

'There's still a lot of work to be done'

The official World IPv6 Launch event, which began at 8 p.m. EDT yesterday, passed with little if any attention from the typical Internet user. For some in the Internet engineering community, however, the day marked the culmination of two decades' worth of work.

SLIDESHOW: Why the Internet needs IPv6

"For some of us, it's been 20 years since we began working on next-generation IPNG, which ultimately became IPv6," says Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf, who created a fully dual-stacked IPv4/IPv6 network for the National Science Foundation as long ago as 1995.

Work on the IPv6 project has quickened substantially in recent years, and the success of last year's IPv6 test day proved an encouraging prelude to yesterday's nearly trouble-free endeavor.

Nevertheless, there's still a lot of work to be done, according to Cerf. One of the key advantages of IPv6 is its ability to provide direct point-to-point connectivity, rather than routing everything through central intermediaries.

"A phone call, for example, has the property that when you dial a number, the guy at the other end's phone rings. You don't have to go to a rendezvous point, you don't have to have logged in, you don't have to do any of the things we do today with chat and things like that," he says. "With IPv6, we are going to reinvent the IPv4 system as it was when it was first designed and built, where anybody could initiate a connection to anybody else, as opposed to going through some intermediary or going through a Web server."

The concept of the "Internet of things," according to Cerf, is another one that IPv6 will enable, and he hasn't been slow to embrace it himself.

"I'm running a v6 network in my house right now that's monitoring the state of temperature, humidity and light levels in every room in the house every five minutes and then storing that data in a server down in the basement. ... That data now gives me very, very good engineering information about how well the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems work all year round," he says.

Cerf says that IPv6 usage should grow quickly moving forward.

"I hope over the course of the next six months that we'll get a better sense of how rapidly the capability spreads. Most of the time, the edge devices [routers and switches] already have [IPv6] capability, it's just that the ISPs haven't turned it on," he says.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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