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As we celebrate World IPv6 Day today, we asked Iain Shaw, Managing Director of leading UK buying group Brigantia, what he thinks about the industry’s reluctant uptake of IPv6 and how this is likely to affect service and hardware resellers.

The end is nigh!

The last remaining IPv4 addresses have now been allocated to the five RIRs (Regional Internet Registries) and the world approaches the complete depletion of IPv4 within the next few years (if we are lucky) yet there still appears to be no rush by ISPs and hardware manufacturers to promote and fully adopt IPv6, the replacement for IPv4. Whilst providers and manufacturers are quite right in their defences to state that this latest news does not mean the apocalyptic end of the Internet, as was occasionally reported by the press, it is fair to say that now is the time to act. After all we have known that this day was coming for several years yet only a few ISPs such as Entanet are currently able to support IPv6 and only a few hardware vendors are offering affordable IPv6 compatible hardware.

Raúl Echeberría, Chairman of the Number Resource Organization (NRO), said: “Each RIR will have its final full /8 from IANA, plus any existing IP address holdings to distribute. Depending on address space requests received, this could last each RIR anywhere from a few weeks to many months. It’s only a matter of time before the RIRs and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must start denying requests for IPv4 address space. Deploying IPv6 is now a requirement, not an option.”

So why have providers and manufacturers been so slow to adopt IPv6? Well they both appear to be blaming each other. The ISPs complain that hardware manufacturers have not yet developed enough supporting hardware to accommodate demand and therefore justify their investment in moving to IPv6, whilst the hardware manufacturers argue that they shouldn’t be developing the hardware until the networks can support it.

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA UK Secretary General, said: “Some members are already offering IPv6 and other members are in the process of getting IPv6 ready. The problem for ISPs has been that the home router manufacturers are only just getting to the point where they have something that supports both IPv4 and IPv6. There is enough regional address space in the short term, however consumers should ensure that when they are updating their software or changing their contracts that it is IPv6 compatible.”

I’m with Entanet in its call on manufacturers to at least release firmware upgrades. It has stated: “Among the CPE currently on the market, some models are at best partially IPv6 compatible and so we encourage vendors to release firmware updates on at least their current models.”

Most interesting of all is Virgin Media’s comments where the provider also appears to blame a lack of customer demand for IPv6. Its Matt McCloskey that stated: “It’s important that both businesses and the public realise, that despite recent reports, the ‘IPcalypse’ is not nigh and the internet isn’t about to topple over. The media furore isn’t helpful and my concern is that it’s going to lead to bulk buying of the final IPv4 addresses – a bit like stocking up on groceries before a major storm hits and clearing your local supermarket out of tinned goods. Even with the recent speculation surrounding IPv4 addresses running out, we have yet to see real customer demand for IPv6.”

But why would customers demand IPv6? As far as an end user is concerned (business or residential) they are just buying their Internet connectivity, the technology behind that connectivity that makes it work is irrelevant to them. They shouldn’t need to concern themselves with whether or not their IP address is IPv4 or IPv6, they just want it to work as it should. The demand for IPv6 should be coming from the network providers and hardware manufacturers who should have by now driven demand for IPv6 through the development and sale of IPv6 compatible hardware and networks. Yet they seem content to sit on the fence and wait for the inevitable last minute rush.

Where does this leave the resellers?

In the short term they are more likely to find it difficult and/or expensive to get IPv4 addresses as providers carefully manage their remaining stocks. However they also need to prepare for the future. They need to find out what their vendors have planned for IPv6. Are they already offering IPv6 compatible services and hardware and if not why not and how soon can they? It is the resellers that will need to advise the end users as to which hardware and services will best fit their requirements and this should now be IPv6 compatible to help them future proof the solution. I expect over the next few months we will see more and more providers and manufacturers launch IPv6 compatible services to the channel as they realise the time to act on this issue is now. No longer can they postpone the inevitable investment required into their networks and hardware development. I therefore encourage all resellers to start to request more information about IPv6 from their providers. By creating the demand they seem to crave so badly you can force them to face the inevitable and act now to ensure we are all fully prepared.

Have your say!

What do you think about the rapidly diminishing IPv4 addresses and the industry reluctance to adopt IPv6? Do you agree with Ian Shaw that resellers need to start asking providers and manufacturers about IPv6 to encourage demand and force them to support IPv6 more proactively? Let us know your thoughts on this subject by leaving us a comment below.

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