InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) and the New Zealand IPv6 Task Force are concerned that the message about adopting the new Internet Protocol, IPv6, is still not getting through to leading enterprise managers in New Zealand.
IPv6 is the replacement for the long-standing Internet Protocol IPv4, which is limited to 4 billion addresses, inadequate considering the global population and exponential growth in Internet use. IPv6 has 340 billion billion billion billion addresses, enabling an end-to-end connection to any person, computer or machine that connects to the Internet.
A current survey shows 71% of those are unaware of IPv6, although there is increased understanding of the issues at a technical management level with 74% informed.
Another observation is that around half of the organisations that responded (46%) still have no IPv6 plans in place.
InternetNZ undertakes this survey for the New Zealand IPv6 Task Force. The New Zealand IPv6 Task Force is tasked with developing an IPv6 action plan, training and education options, and assisting with IPv6 implementation planning. The Task Force is aligned with the Global IPv6 Forum, and its work is driven by the impending exhaustion of IPv4 addressing and the associated risk and additional cost that this is expected to impose on New Zealand organisations.
"Businesses need a plan to adopt IPv6 alongside their existing IPv4 in their networks and websites, and they need that plan yesterday," says Task Force Convenor Dr Murray Milner. "It is relatively low cost if the equipment and skills are acquired over time as equipment is replaced. It will be high cost and high risk if it has to be done in a hurry later. Therefore, management support and planning are crucial."
"It may be tempting for business managers to dismiss their need for IPv6 by stating that they will not require any more IP addresses in the near future," says Task Force technical lead Dean Pemberton. "However, they may run the risk of not being able to communicate effectively with partners or potential customers who have chosen to make IPv6 their preferred method of communication. Adopting IPv6 is as much about ensuring that you can continue to communicate with everyone on the Internet as it is about requiring additional Internet addresses"
InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar says the benefits of IPv6 will be huge as the number of devices that people carry and have in their homes and businesses escalate. "New mobile networks, security systems, and applications we haven't even thought of yet will utilise IPv6. Mass applications of direct machine-to-machine communication also become practical - the incoming 'Internet of Things'."
"As long as people view this as a cost and not an opportunity, the 'New Internet' message will not get though to business managers."
As the number of available IPv4 addresses runs out, some networks and businesses globally will only be able to connect via IPv6, so connections to those networks through IPv4 will need to go through gateways or translators. This will hinder services that rely on direct connections and provide a sub-par experience of the Internet to those caught out.
Ultimately New Zealand consumers will also need to move their equipment to IPv6 as they upgrade their broadband connections. This involves replacing home routers or modems.
"It would be a travesty if the new fibre networks are not IPv6-enabled by default, and some way needs to be found to ensure that equipment is installed. The Task Force has also heard of initiatives to upgrade ADSL modem technology to IPv6 and highly encourages Internet Service Providers and equipment manufacturers to increase their efforts in this regard," says Milner.
One piece of good news in the survey is the increased planning by enterprise IT departments for their websites to be available via IPv6. This is relatively easy to implement and the .nz registry, a subsidiary of InternetNZ, has assisted here by being IPv6 capable for some time.
"It is also positive to see that IPv6 skills are generally available (83%), and that telecommunications firms are starting to talk more (30%) to their customers about IPv6. We expect they will be more confident to promote these services as their own experience with the technology grows," says Milner.