Australia urged to embrace new internet protocol
IPv6 will eventually replace the widely used IPv4 as the communications protocol that enables internet traffic to move.
Australia is lagging in the adoption of IPv6, the new internet protocol introduced last year, and our tardiness could threaten the international competitiveness of Australian businesses, particular with major trading partners like China.
IPv6 will eventually replace the widely used IPv4 as the communications protocol that enables internet traffic to move between addresses and past switches, routers and other networking equipment. It introduced trillions more internet addresses to the world as those available in IPv4 dried out.
IPv4 uses addresses that are only 32 bits long, which limits the number of unique addresses to about 4.3 billion. An IPv6 address is 128 bits long, sufficient to give multiple unique addresses to every grain of sand on the planet.
Logicalis, an IT solutions and managed services provider, has used information gathered and published by Cisco to compile a league table of national IPv6 readiness. It puts Australia in number four position in Asia Pacific - after Singapore, Japan and New Zealand -and in 23rd position globally. China, however, aims to take a leadership position in IPv6 implementation.
Logicalis’ Oliver Descoeudres, said the importance of IPv6 should not be underestimated and he called on Australian organisations to accelerate their adoption plans.
"Using IPv6 to stay one step ahead of other nations, be they trade partners or competitors, could significantly enhance our competitiveness.”
Kate Lance, communications manager with IPv6 Now, a consultancy specialising in IPv6, said that Australia’s major trading partners in Asia were, of necessity, moving to IPv6 faster than Australia and she warned that, in a few years time Australian companies could find themselves excluded from market opportunities.
“India and China never had very large IPv4 allocations so they have no alternative but to go to IPv6. China in particular is very keen, and Korea is going to be forced to go to all IPv6 networks in the near future.”
It has been estimated that China will need 34.5 billion IP addresses in the next five years and IPv6 network evolution is one of the priorities in China’s ‘Instructions for Next Generation Internet Development’ announced in March 2012. China said it would launch commercial IPv6 network pilot projects before the end of 2013 and that by 2015 it would have more than 25 million broadband users on IPv6.
Lance suggested that China, Australia’s largest trading partner, could widely deploy IPv6 while Australian businesses were still predominantly using IPv4.
“At some stage some of our Chinese customers are going to be on purely IPv6 networks and they simply won’t be able to see our products and things we have on the web. They will have enough critical mass to just ignore us.”
Greg Daley, a solutions architect with Logicalis, said that China, and the US, had identified IPv6 has providing strategic advantage.
"IPv6 provides opportunities for new and innovative applications. With IPv4 we are highly constrained in the types of applications we can deploy because we have to assume there is network address translation ... With IPv4 you cannot contact a device behind a NAT [network address translation]. The device itself has to initiate accreditation, and this locks you in to a client/server paradigm.”
Network address translation is widely implemented in routers used for consumer internet access. A router has a unique IPv4 address, assigned by the ISP. The router then creates an IPv4 address for each connected PC, printer and device that enables it to route communications between them and the internet, but these addresses are invisible to the internet as a whole. This technique works fine for many situations but can preclude some applications and is a particular problem for the ‘Internet of Things’ where very large numbers of sensing devices have to be individually addressed.
Daley said Logicalis was trying to get businesses to appreciate the business benefits of IPv6 and to start planning for its adoption.
“There are things which people can do now which give operational flexibility that is not available if they stay with IPv4," he said.
IPV6 was launched in June 2012 to much fanfare. Later, security experts recommended disabling it on devices until it was widely adopted. Most networks are likely to use both IPv4 and IPv6 for many more years.
Lance agreed that Australian uptake had been slow and that there was a lack of awareness of the benefits of IPv6 and of the shortage of IPv4 addresses. “There are a lot of compelling business reasons to go IPv6. If you think about the cost/benefit and you start thinking two or three years ahead, IPv6 is a no-brainer, but for some reason people have not been brought to that point.”
She predicted that the imminent allocation of the last remaining IPv4 addresses would act as a wake-up call.
“My gut feeling is that when America hits the wall in early 2014 then you will get massive amount of interest in IPv6 and people will say ‘Well nobody told us about this at the time’.”
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