Participants at UKNOF29 in Belfast were unconvinced that there was a business case for IPv6
It’s over three years since the UK networking industry got together to celebrate the end of the internet as we knew it. The trefor.net “Move over IPv4, Bring on IPv6” party in the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden had almost 400 people sign up. Every man jack of them there to dance on the grave of the old internet, drinking deep of the heady draught of IPv6. At the time the business case for IPv6 was simply that there would be no more IPv4 address blocks available.
In the meantime what has happened? Not all that much. According to Nathalie Kunneke-Trenaman of RIPE NCC, the organisation that dishes out IP addresses in Europe, the UK is 40th in the global rankings for IPv6 adoption. From personal experience network operators have been getting more efficient at using their existing IPv4 ranges. Recovering addresses no longer needed, moving small allocations around to free up bigger blocks for bigger projects. Stuff like that.
The thing that struck me from the talks at UKNOF29 was the seeming lack of urgency for IPv6. Dave Wilson of HEANet, the Irish national educational research network (equivalent of our Ja.net) told the audience that they had IPv6 running in production for over ten years but the number of IPv6 enabled devices connecte to the network was so low that the HEANet management had questioned whether they should bother maintaining it. The business case for IPv6 just didn’t jump out of the page and scream “use me”.
This seemed to be the general feeling at the conference. “It’ll get there but there is no urgency”. There was also the feeling that equipment vendors that quoted their kit as IPv6 enabled had not done nearly enough testing and their gear was often bug ridden. This is really down to the lack of use of the features. If people were using IPv6, bugs would get found out and fixed.
Jumping ahead slightly in my timeline the subject of IPv6 came up at the ITSPA (Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association) board meeting yesterday. In the VoIP space the attitude of vendors seems to simply be “we’ll do it when we need to do it”. I doubt that there are any IPv6 enabled VoIP networks/systems anywhere. I’d certainly be interested in hearing about them if there are.
Whizzing back to Belfast it is worth finishing with some positive news in the space. BT are reportedly going to announce a roll out of IPv6 in their own network in 2015. This should be transparent to the end user and BT didn’t really consider it to be news. In reality it shouldn’t be. It should “just work”. The workings of the internet are hugely complicated and Joe Public doesn’t really need to know.
The business case for IPv6 is something Cisco are trying hard to push. Cisco Systems Engineer Veronika McKillop is leading an initiative called the UK IPv6 Council. Check out their LinkedIn page here. The last such initiative was called 6UK. 6UK foundered due to lack of interest and finance. At the time a very rough poll by me of large UK enterprise networks suggested that everybody had it on their list of things to do but there was always something more pressing that took up the resources.There was they said no business case for IPv6.
I think this time Veronika McKillop has a better chance of succeeding. The constitution of the board is as follows:
ISPs – BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media
Enterprise – Cisco, Glaxo Smith Kline UK,and “a large financial organisation”
Academia – University of Southampton, JANET
Industry body – Institute of Engineering and Technology
The “large financial organisation” is going through an internal approvals process. I guess they really need more Enterprise participants – sticking Cisco in there is just making up the numbers as they should really be in a vendor category even though they are a large enterprise in their own right. The business case for IPv6 really has to come from the Enterprise.
The UK IPv6 Council’s first initiatives include a webinar entitled “The Business Case for IPv6” – you can sign up here. There is also a council meeting on 16th October at IDEALondon. I suspect that getting the UK up to speed with IPv6 is still going to be a long slow job but at least with the big ISPs on board they should be able to get some momentum/have some staying power.