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World IPv6 day started glitch-free, but most web surfers won’t notice

Jun 8, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

After months of preparation and anticipation, World IPv6 Day kicked off fairly quietly. More than 200 organizations around the world turned on IPv6 at 12 a.m. UTC on June 8 for the world's first mass test of the second-generation networking standard.

Participating Internet service providers, content management networks and web companies switched to IPv6 networks for a 24-hour test to increase awareness as well as to work out the kinks in the protocol. Participating organizations are not limited to just technology companies, as government agencies, educational institutions and entertainment companies are also taking part, according to the Internet Society.

For most users, it's business as usual and nothing will be obviously different. For others trying out the latest thing in networking technology, it is quite entertaining.

Armed with a Windows 7 laptop with an IPv6 address, eWEEK started browsing the Web to see what was happening on World IPv6 Day. Instead of having some parts of the world start earlier or later than others, the switchover happened more or less simultaneously, using London time as the cut-off point.

"Everyone is turning IPv6 on and off at the same time," Andy Champagne, engineering vice president at Akamai, told eWEEK.

Some companies appear to be having some fun with IPv6. Eagle-eyed Web surfers will notice that Facebook's address 2620:0:1:c18:0:face:b00c:: contains a mis-spelled version of its name (face:b00c). Cisco's 2001:420:80:1:c:15:c0:d07:f00d address reads 'Cisco dog food.' (Dog food is, of course, the tech term that means a company is using its own products.)

While browsing for IPv6 websites, what was more noteworthy were the number of major technology giants who chose not to enable IPv6 on their main websites, such as Comcast, Intel, AMD and Apple. While Level 3 Communications, a Broomfield, Colo.-based Internet service provider who operates a Tier 1 network had an IPv6 address, the site returned a 404 "Not Found" page.

There doesn't seem to be much of a hitch getting started. RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens), which is the regional Internet registry for Europe, is tracking specific organizations to measure their participation. Several of them — such as the United States Department of Commerce, Ericsson, and Mozilla — appear to have enabled IPv6 long before the official switch time.

RIPE's chart measured whether user clients could find each listed organization's IPv6 address. Mozilla appeared to have a bit of a hiccup about a half hour into the test, with some of RIPE's test machines failing to find Mozilla's website.

Many organizations are participating in World IPv6 Day without having actually made any changes to their networking environment or website, thanks to Akamai. The content delivery network signed up 30 customers from around the globe, about one percent of its customer base, to its Akamai IPv6 Service, Champagne said. The service allows customers who don't have IPv6-enabled websites to still be accessible to users browsing the Web using machines with IPv6 addresses.

The differences in the IPv4 and IPv6 standards mean that the two address spaces are generally separate and cannot overlap. That means users with IPv6-enabled devices can't access websites hosted on servers with IPv4 addresses, nor can IPv4-enabled devices access sites hosted on IPv6 servers. Dual-stack configurations and tunneling services have been used to help bridge the two parallel networks. Akamai's service is another method customers can use, Champagne said.

With the service in place, users can "talk" IPv6 to Akamai, who translate the network request to the customer's IPv4-based website, according to Champagne. The service is intended to help customers whose core competency is not in technology. They don't need to invest in the networking equipment or hire IPv6 experts to participate in the IPv6 test or make the switchover.

An example appears to be the United States Treasury Department. The website is hosted on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud servers, which currently does not support IPv6, but the site is accessible over Akamai's service. The IPv6 address 2a02:26f0:c:1::5c7a:32b1 that comes up when looking at the site is part of a subnet owned by Akamai, according to the latest Whois data.

Akamai has a data virtualization tool on its site that shows how much IPv6 traffic is accessing the websites belonging to the 30 customers signed up on the IPv6 service. On average, there had been about 208 IPv6 hits per second, three hours into the test. Akamai's network saw a surge about a half hour after the switchover, with about 458 hits per second, as curious web surfers checked out what was happening.

Further information

You can find more information on World IPv6 Day, as well as a test of your ability to access IPv6-only websites, on an Internet Society web page.

Fahmida Y. Rashid is a writer for eWEEK.

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