Internode will offer production IPv6 services to consumers by the end of 2010 as it continues to gain experience through a trial of the next generation Internet Protocol.
The ISP began trialling IPv6 services in native mode on its national ADSL network last November and, to date, has not encountered any “showstopper” issues, Internode’s network engineer, Mark Newton, said.
“It's been good for us from a design point of view, because it presents an opportunity to ‘start over’,” Newton said about the trial. “You don't often get opportunities to rethink designs from first principles on large networks, and spending a bit of time questioning assumptions made in the early days will pay-off by reducing future rework.”
Internode and other telcos already offer business customers connecting by Ethernet and metro fibre an IPv6 dual stack service, but the move to provide consumer offerings would be a first by a large ISP in Australia.
Internode has been somewhat of a loner in the IPv6 space, with many other ISPs telling Computerworld last year they have no intention of running IPv6 trials in the short term.
However, Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) chief scientist, Geoff Huston, said the accelerating decline of IPv4 address space could end up increasing the cost of Internet access unless the industry speeds up the migration to IPv6 in the near future.
The official representative of the five regional bodies that oversee distribution of Internet number resources — the Number Resource Organization (NRO) — has already announced the remaining allocation of IPv4 addresses had dropped below 10 per cent.
IPv6 is a long-awaited next generation Internet Protocol that uses a 128-bit addressing scheme that will provide billions of IP addresses. It is promoted as the replacement for the existing communications protocol IPv4, which uses 32-bit addresses and can support about 4 billion IP addresses.
Newton puts the industry’s reticence down to two adoption issues.
“Corporate Internet users have a cost and planning problem to solve, because they need to roll IPv6 into their network equipment refresh cycle, which really turns it into a project management issue,” he said. “The barriers for adoption are completely different for residential users, who can't currently buy native IPv6 broadband CPE [consumer premise equipment] even though they generally have pretty simple networks which will work perfectly well with v6 when it's available.”
Yet, with ample support for early IPv6 adoption coming from Web giants Google and Yahoo, and the news one of the US’ largest ISPs, Comcast, is running v6 trials, some industry representatives such as APNIC are hopeful 2010 will be a watershed year.
“For years the question about IPv6 adoption has always been, ‘Why should I, when there's no IPv6 content?’,” Newton said. “I think that question misrepresents the issue, though: Everyone's going to migrate one way or the other whether they like it or not, and content providers must either accommodate the inevitable or fall behind their competition.”