Indeed, last Wednesday — on June 8th — a test by major global content providers of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) went according to plan and now participants like Yahoo! and Nominum are analyzing the results to determine whether the Web is ready for transitioning to the new protocol.
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) suggests that all Internet servers be prepared to serve IPv6-only clients by January 2012.
After enabling IPv6 on its main Web site for a period of 24 hours last week, Yahoo!'s initial findings suggest it is possible for a large number of Web sites to adopt IPv6 without a big impact on site reliability, according to Adam Bechtel, vice president for Yahoo!'s Infrastructure Group.
"The goal of World IPv6 Day was to motivate ISPs, hardware manufacturers, OS vendors, and Web companies to prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out and to identify potential problems under controlled conditions," Bechtel says. "What our support center experienced was only a few calls relating to IPv6 Day — and we've heard similar stories from other participants."
In preparation, a great deal of code was updated to handle the IPv6 address format both in the software Yahoo! operates as well as in its network routers.
"Previous testing in the lab provided a high level of confidence," recalls Bechtel, "but that is never the same as real live traffic."
Another anticipated problem was with a subset of Yahoo!'s customers and with their local computer configuration. If their computers thought they had IPv6 but, in reality, they did not, their browsers would not immediately return to the legacy IPv4 Internet. From the customers' points of view, the Web site was down.
While Bechtel reports that Yahoo! is still examining its data, "current data suggests that there is minimal risk to pushing forward with IPv6."
Meanwhile, at Nominum, the Redwood City, CA-based provider of DNS solutions not only enabled its corporate Web site to be accessed over IPv6 but also its iView information service allowed its ISP customers to get visibility into IPv6-related DNS queries (AAAA queries).
"Our initial analysis of data showed no significant increase in aggregate AAAA queries from a sample representing 10 million estimated Internet subscribers during IPv6 Day, which was in line with our expectations," says Hari Krishnan, Nominum's director of product management.
Expectations had been that "a very small percentage of users — less than 1/10th of a percent — might experience some issues with accessing IPv6-enabled Web sites," he says.
There were even some concerns that IPv6 Day might experience security attacks or cause slowdowns for subscribers trying to access major Web sites due to configuration issues in the infrastructure.
Such worries were unfounded, Krishnan says, and the day went smoothly without major issues.
Moving forward, Krishnan suggests that having major content providers and Web sites participate in a large-scale IPv6 trial is only half the equation, especially since overall IPv6 traffic was less than expected.
"We need more subscribers and users who have IPv6 connectivity to make such large-scale testing events more compelling," he says. "As major ISPs start rolling out IPv6-based Internet services with select regional trials, it would be great to have more World IPv6 Day events where major content providers and Web sites offer access to their Web sites over IPv6 with more Internet subscribers who have IPv6 access."
Paul Hyman was editor-in-chief of several hi-tech publications at CMP Media, including Electronic Buyers' News.
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