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The history of Western civilization is not an obvious place to start talking about the importance of IPv6 to the future of the Internet. But many historians have said the real genius of the Roman Empire was innovation in plumbing – the technology of sewers and aqueducts – that helped to curtail the spread of disease and enabled progress in human and institutional collaboration. It’s similar with IPv6. As the next upgrade on the IP Protocol, IPv6 offers a massive expansion in the Internet’s addressing system. It’s the new plumbing that no one will ever see – other than IT people – for moving trillions of messages every day to billions of networked people, devices and businesses globally. It’s the new plumbing that will keep transforming the Internet as a medium for advanced forms of collaboration and innovation.
Be assured: service providers are managing the transition for you
At Allstream, a question I hear frequently these days from customers is: what do I need to know about IPv6 – why is it important to me? The first thought that comes to my mind is that IPv6 is not something you really should be worrying about much, although there are smart ways to prepare for it with help from your service provider. The fact is, the plumbing or technological foundation of the Internet is not something for which you’re responsible or can directly affect. That’s a job mainly for service providers and technology vendors.
You can be assured, though, that the world’s service providers that deliver your Internet connectivity are working hard today to implement a coherent, timely migration to the IPv6 standard while ensuring that customers using IPv4 addresses and technology will not be affected.
At the same time, technology vendors are upgrading their systems – like PBXs – to IPv6 on the premise that they will function properly on networks like ours.
So why worry?
As service provider networks and your CPE systems upgrade to IPv6 over time, those of you with technology not operating yet to that standard won’t be affected. You’ll benefit from networks operating with dual stacks, supporting both IPv4 and IPv6 for a long time to come. To make that happen smoothly, it is fair to say that service providers will have their own challenges to overcome. The Internet isn’t one network but many networks, bridging wireline and wireless, requiring interoperability between technologies and standards that all need to be harmonized, like MPLS, Ethernet, 3G, 4G, LTE and so on.
Our focus: making the transition to IPv6 invisible for our customers
I am confident that the telecom industry is up to the challenge of a pain-free IPv6 migration, especially in making this transition happen without you, our customers, having to worry about a thing. It should be invisible to you, ideally. Why am I confident? First, our industry has a great track record of successful cooperation – and pretty good process in place – when it comes to adopting standards that cross borders and interconnect networks and technology. Second, it’s not like we’re inventing something new here. IPv6 is an evolution of the existing IP Protocol – a long-accepted market standard — co-written by the great Internet visionary Vint Cerf, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and working with during my years at Verizon. He’s been talking up IPv6 for many years now. So, in essence, there are no surprises here.
Even so, I believe IPv6 adoption will come faster than we all might think. The exponential growth in Internet devices and people will continue, the result of several big trends converging more or less at once, like virtualization, cloud, big data, mobility, the consumerization of business devices, and developments in machine-to-machine communications. We will need many more Internet addresses to connect everything and everyone. Looking ahead, the growth in new devices can and will only be enabled by IPv6 addressing, meaning that at some point, the IPv6 standard will be baked into all the networks you use and all the systems built into your IT infrastructure.
The main thing is, while it is important for CIOs and IT professionals in general to get better informed about IPv6, in my view you should not be worrying about it. The telecom industry is experienced at these transformations and, with IPv6, we will have it handled for you.