"Unfortunately, IPv6 is at the sort of nascent state where it's not quite there completely," Silva says. "We would like to see faster adoption, but in order for that to happen we have to see more carriers adopt it, more router and firewall and load balancer manufactures understand IPv6, and have more software applications that understand it."
VeriSign has been acquiring IPv6-enabled hardware as part of its tech-refresh process for many years, first through a $100 million upgrade called Project Titan that lasted from 2007 to 2010 and now through a similar ongoing upgrade dubbed Project Apollo.
Silva says VeriSign's IPv6 development effort involved more engineering time and effort than hardware or software investment. "We thought about IPv6 10 years ago, and so everything we could acquire at the time was IPv6 enabled as we built out our infrastructure," he adds.
One remaining challenge for VeriSign in its deployment of IPv6 is getting U.S. carriers to offer end-to-end IPv6 service. "NTT was one of the first out of the gate to offer IPv6 end-to-end. Most of the other carriers are tunneling IPv6 over IPv4, which we will get away with for awhile but that's not scalable," Silva says.
The U.S. government's new IPv6 mandate could prompt U.S.carriers to bring end-to-end IPv6 services to market sooner, Silva says. The mandate requires all federal agencies to support IPv6 on their public-facing Web sites by fall 2012 and on their public-interfacing internal applications by fall 2014.
"The government is finally taking a leadership role," Silva says. "They are the largest customer of some carriers and some equipment manufacturers. If they put out a $2 billion order that has to be IPv6 enabled, you'd be surprised how quickly the market will respond."
IPv6 is the biggest upgrade in the 40-year history of the Internet. Forward-looking carriers and enterprises are deploying IPv6 because the Internet is running out of IP addresses using the current standard, known as IPv4.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices -- 2 to the 128th power.