The IPv6 experience: Are you experienced yet?

Now that ICANN is in the process of upgrading its root servers to handle IPv6 records, somebody has to get the word out to businesses about the benefits of the updated protocol.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is hosting the "IPv6 Experience" in Philadelphia, a meeting geared largely toward generating interest in the next generation IP.

One activity at the convention is an immersive exercise where IPv4 access is turned off, and all attendees can only connect to IPv6 addresses. The outcome, IETF hopes, will be an improved awareness of how IPv6 "just works," and how much more work is needed to facilitate a global rollout.

IPv4 is in a critical state, and some speculate that the window of viability for its four-octet enumeration system has less than two years before unallocated IP addresses are exhausted. When this occurs, network operators and other entities who rely on numbering allocations on the IPv4 standard will find obtaining new addresses for their networks increasingly difficult and expensive. Implementation of these IPs once obtained could also suffer as a result of a drop in efficiency.

In order for IPv6 to see a complete transition, three areas need to be brought up to speed: the "Three P's": Protocol, Product, and Practices.

Protocol is stable, as it's been in development for almost ten years. Products have presented a problem in rollout because many major software providers cannot agree upon Zone ID syntax, as explained in this PDF file from Cisco.

One problem Zone IDs face involves the use of a single character, %, which is a part of IPv6 shorthand. It's used in resolving routing dilemmas, but since % is also an important character in URIs, operating system vendors have had to implement work-arounds for how the character is encoded. As a result, Windows, Linux, and BSD all have their own approaches to the matter.

And since enterprise networks are largely heterogeneous, vendors for software that have to implement IPv6 on those networks continue to find themselves stymied.

The IETF, therefore suggests that an additional effort needs to be put forth by hardware vendors, application developers, network operators and end users for IPv6's deployment to succeed.

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