IPv6 Test Flight Has Risks – But Huge Benefits

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On 8 June, we’ll find out if the global, open Internet has a future, says Leslie Daigle, the Internet Society’s chief Internet technology officer

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It’s been predicted that there might be a black market in IPv4 addresses; Daigle simply says the assignment of the last few will be “a test of polite behaviour the world over,” and points out that registries do have procedures to log the transfer of IP addresses.

What’s in it for the web?

The day is not a test of IPv6 at all, said Daigle. It is a test of “whether the world is ready for IPv6.”

If the test is successful, essentially nothing will happen – but ISOC will be providing web tools and apps for people to monitor the day and watch it happening.

Although she does not believe there will be any problems, companies taking part do run a risk that their sites might not work so well when viewed through IPv6, or maybe through IPv4. However, all particpants believe  it is worth it: “They believe it is in the long term interests of their business,” she said. “And they are going in with a keen anticipation of the risks.”

IPv4 depletion is often presented as an issue for web newcomers who might not get such good online real estate as those already there, but big sites like Google know that a large open Internet is key to providing all the services it wants to in future, said Daigle.

And it’s not just for the giants. The test is open to new particpants, said Daigle, but anyone who joins should be careful: “They should ask themselves if they are ready, make sure they are aware of their own capabilities.”

All welcome

ISOC is confident enough of the success, and the urgency, that it won’t be screening participants in any major way.  “At the end of the day there is not much we can do to follow that through.” she said. “Part of the point of doing it is to test their state of readiness.”

There is of course, nothing to stop sites offering IPv6 already, and ISOC’s site is already available over the new protocol.

There is also nothing to stop sites keeping IPv6 going after the test flight. “It is individual choice whether to turn it off,” said Daigle. “Most will go back to the IPv4 state… but I am hopeful that some will turn it on permantently, shortly thereafter.”

The date, June 8 has no special significance, although ISOC tried hard to arrange it for 6 June, which would have been 6/6. It would also have been the fifth anniversary of the shutdown of 6bone, the formal test network for IPv6.

No-one considered waiting till the sixth anniversary, next year. By then it would be too late.

“If we could have done it sooner, we would have,” said Daigle. “But leaving it later is kind of pointless.”

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