IPv6 adoption rates are slowly growing. It might not seem particularly impressive, but as of February 2014, 3 percent of the users connecting to Google’s servers were using the nextgen protocol. As a proportion it looks meager, but given the huge amount of traffic that Google sees, in terms of absolute numbers, it is more impressive.
Google, along with other Internet giants such as Facebook and Microsoft, enabled IPv6 permanently in June 2012. It took 11 months for Google’s IPv6 traffic to move from 1 percent to 2 percent of all traffic, but only five months to add another percentage point. Adoption is slowly gathering pace, and it is estimated, albeit optimistically, that IPv6 deployment could hit 10 percent by the end of this year.
It is understandable that adoption is inching along at a snail’s pace. IPv6 was deliberately designed to be incompatible with IPv4 so the newer protocol didn’t have to bear the weight of legacy decisions and technical debt. But that incompatibility makes it expensive to upgrade networking infrastructure to handle IPv6 traffic.
However reluctant infrastructure providers are to spend money on the upgrades, it is essential to ensure the continued health on the online ecosystem. IPv4 addresses are in short supply, and trends in technology development are likely to significantly increase the need for a larger address space. The mobile revolution is an obvious contributor to the pressure on IPv4: most people in developed nations have multiple connected devices.
However, the biggest influence behind the developing explosion of connected devices is likely to be the Internet of Things. The connected thermostats and smoke alarms of Nest and connected light bulbs from Philips are only the beginning. By the end of the decade it is likely that there will be tens or hundred of millions of new smart devices in need of IP addresses.
It’s not only the need for more IP numbers that should be driving faster adoption of IPv6. The protocol was designed with features that make it more efficient than its predecessor.
IPv6 reduces the size of routing tables and alters routing structures to make them more efficient. It also simplifies the packet headers, allowing for more efficient processing. Network configuration is simplified because automatic configuration is built into the protocol. And IPv6 supports multicasting – the sending of streams of data to multiple destinations simultaneously — a boon for Internet Service Providers and data center owners at a time when video is fast becoming the dominant medium of the Internet.
I’m not so sure that we’ll hit 10 percent adoption by the end of this year; that seems like wishful thinking, but I’ll be happy to eat my words if I’m proven wrong.
Photo Credits: yukop