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Business Case for IPv6 - Part 1

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Juha Holkkola

When discussing IPv6, it is easy to forget that we are ultimately talking about an enhanced version of an existing network protocol. Sure, it brings about a number of technical advantages. But when viewed in isolation — without a business case — there really are not that many drivers that would place IPv6 on the agenda of the top decision makers looking after budgets. For IPv6 to gain serious momentum, this has to be changed.

As IPv4 started getting traction during the 90s, there probably were not many organizations out there that were dying to make an investment in IPv4. Rather, the compelling business case they saw related to the Internet, for which IPv4 was the enabler. Twenty or so years down the road, I find it hard to believe that the decision making process in itself would have changed dramatically. Without a powerful trend providing support, the IPv6 train will remain stuck at the station.

A case in point is the service providers in the emerging economies. In our experience, the reason they have been actively experimenting with IPv6 isn't related to technological advantages. Rather, the problem these entities are tackling with IPv6 relates to the amount of available IPv4 space they have at their disposal, and its disparity with the addressable market they are looking at. If the market potential you are looking at is hundreds of millions of subscribers, yet your organization is stuck with a couple of class B networks, you have no choice but to embrace IPv6 if it is to grow to its full potential.

In the more mature industrialized countries, a driver like this does not exist, at least not in the short to mid-term future. Sure, the number of IP devices is on the rise. Yet with stagnating subscriber base, aging population and the proportionally large address spaces that were allocated to these organizations back in the day, it is not as if shortage of IP addresses would be a bottle-neck for the growth of their business. Coupled with private network spaces used by most enterprises, it is hard to find a genuine business case for IPv6 in the form of IP shortage. So perhaps we should be looking elsewhere (to be continued in Part 2).

By Juha Holkkola, Co-Founder and Chief Technologist at FusionLayer Inc.

Related topics: Internet Protocol, IP Addressing, IPv6



To me, probably the main business case Todd Knarr  –  May 07, 2012 10:58 AM PDT

To me, probably the main business case is "survival". Several regions are out of IPv4 address space at the RIR level, and it won't be too long before providers at the end-user level will find it easier to go IPv6-only than to scrounge up more IPv4 addresses. At that point, as a business either you'll need to support IPv6 or you'll have potential customers who simply can't reach you. I expect it to be a tipping point: it may be slow to happen but once it happens it'll spread a lot more rapidly than expected because of the snowball effect. As a business you can either prepare ahead of time on your own schedule, or you can be forced to play catch-up on a panic schedule. I know which one makes more business sense to me.

And yes, my home network's already fully IPv6-capable internally, and I'm just looking for a quiet day or two to get full external IPv6 connectivity finished. I'd probably already have it done if I weren't being picky about the firewall (no NAT doesn't mean I want inbound access to be completely uncontrolled).

What does "out of address space" mean? McTim  –  May 07, 2012 3:27 PM PDT

AFAIK, there are zero RIRs that have zero addresses.

In general, the "survival" notion is one that is appealing.  however, it has been around for over a decade and we are still in the single digits of v6 usage.

No RIRs are completely out yet, but Todd Knarr  –  May 07, 2012 4:58 PM PDT

No RIRs are completely out yet, but as of 2/2011 the last netblocks were assigned to the RIRs. So when an RIR exhausts it's current allocation, that's it. It won't be able to go to IANA and get more space. As of 4/2011, APNIC was assigning out of it's last available /8 netblock. The only plan for dealing with this was to transfer allocation from North American to Asia, and that's just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Myself, I'll be watching Asia. When the first consumer-level ISP starts going IPv6-only, that I think will be the first indication that we've hit the knee of the adoption curve.

That's a valid point you're making Juha Holkkola  –  May 07, 2012 1:13 PM PDT

Thanks Todd, that's certainly a valid point you made.

On this note, one thing we've been seeing over the last 1-2 years is an increasing interest in DNS64 by those who are looking to offer an IPv6-only service to end-users. At the end of the day, most end-users want to have an access to good content - preferably today - so the service providers have an interest in making sure that's technically possible in the event they offer IPv6-only subscriptions. Assuming DNS64 gains momentum (or another similar technology, there are some others too), one possibility is that it will join NAT in technologies that put brakes on IPv6.

Not that we're betting on that: our web content has been available via both IPv4 and IPv6 since the IPv6 World Day last summer. In case anyone wonders the business case, I'm happy to tell we did it solely on the basis of hoping to get some good PR and prospective customers…

Todd 1 - Juha 0.

Enhancing IPv6 Phil Howard  –  May 08, 2012 1:49 PM PDT

I'm looking at putting my photography work online as a blog.  One thing I am thinking about is making the full resolution images (under Creative Commons license), including camera raw files, available linked from the blog, but accessible only via IPv6.  This should add another grain of sand to the bucket of motivation to "get your v6 on".

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