"Performance can get worse with IPv6," Summers says. "Filters break. Geo-location services break...Our customers want a minimal performance impact just because their end user is on an IPv6 address. We need to help them address the 'broken user' problem. Our end goal is native IPv4 and native IPv6 dual stack service that allows them to reach all of the eyeballs on the Internet."
Akamai says one key challenge is upgrading its home-grown mapping software to support IPv6 addresses as well as IPv4 addresses.
"We use DNS as a way in which a customer site comes into the Akamai platform. The customer's IP address resolves to an Akamai IP address, and we map that request by a browser to an edge server that's as close as possible -- generally one network hop -- to that user," Summers says. "The mapping algorithms we use are all built around IPv4 addresses. Now we have to do the same sort of IP mapping with IPv6 addresses, which are much bigger and the computational space is larger."
Summers says Akamai also has to upgrade its logging system to handle IPv6 addresses, as well as its geo-location services and its traffic reporting systems.
He says Akamai will offer IPv6 service in a few dozen locations by year-end. So far, Akamai is not having trouble purchasing IPv6 connectivity from carriers to support these locations.
"We have goals to acquire a certain amount of IPv6 bandwidth in a certain amount of IPv6 locations, and we're ahead of plan," Summers says.
Summers says that Akamai's IPv6 engineering effort, which began earlier this year, isn't running into serious technical problems but that it is complex. For example, instead of dealing with regular DNS A records, Akamai has to deal with the Quad-A records required by IPv6.
IPv6 "impacts many of the software components of the platform," Summers says. "Across the organizations, it's a pretty good number of people who are involved. It's a project that has good visibility across the company. It's something we know we have to get done because our customers are going to need it in the coming years."
Akamai says it will support IPv6 in such a way that it requires no changes to its customers' network infrastructures and that it will be as easy to turn on as its existing IPv4-based service.
"We want to help our content customers deliver a quality end-user experience out to IPv6 end users without them having to make any changes whatsoever to their data centers to support IPv6," Summers says. "We are telling our customers to leave their data center in IPv4, and that we will speak to them on IPv4 and we will speak to the end user on IPv4 and IPv6, and that we will route around all of the IPv6 speed bumps."