July 29, 2011, 12:51 PM — Where are the users? That's what popular websites including Yahoo, Google and Facebook are asking the Internet engineering community when they are questioned about their long-range plans to deploy IPv6.
These popular websites -- and tens of thousands of others -- participated in a successful, 24-hour trial of IPv6 on June 8 dubbed World IPv6 Day. Sponsored by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Day was a large-scale experiment designed to test the readiness of IPv6 to replace IPv4, which has been the Internet's main communications protocol since its inception 40 years ago.
The Internet's largest players are providing detailed analysis about their experiences on World IPv6 Day and they are discussing next steps for IPv6 deployment at a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) being held here this week.
What's evident at the IETF meeting is a shift in focus on the IPv6 debate from content to carriers. The Internet engineering community appears to be ratcheting up the pressure on ISPs, particularly residential broadband providers, to enable IPv6 to home users as the next step to IPv6 deployment.
"The focus is absolutely on the access networks," said IETF Chairman Russ Housley. "What World IPv6 Day showed is individuals who wanted to participate from home could not get IPv6 support from their ISPs. They had to set up their own [IPv6-over-IPv4] tunnels, and the average user doesn't have the knowledge to do that."
Yahoo said it deployed dual-stack IPv6 and IPv4 proxy servers at seven locations worldwide and created a special infrastructure to improve the performance of the 6to4 tunneling protocol for World IPv6 Day. Yahoo also modified its geolocation and ad-targeting code to be IPv6 aware, and it over-provisioned its IPv6 servers as an extra precaution.
On World IPv6 Day, Yahoo served IPv6 content to more than 2.2 million users, representing a peak of 0.229% of the overall traffic on 30 different Yahoo-affiliated sites. Yahoo hailed World IPv6 Day as a success but turned off IPv6 support after the event.
"IPv6 is not a wide deployment," said Igor Gashinsky, a principal architect with Yahoo. "That was a lot of work for 0.229%. We need more IPv6 access. Can we break single digits, please, and then we can talk about leaving it on?"