The IPv4 address space is near exhaustion, yet a new report claims that traffic on the modernized IPv6 (define) protocol is slow and migration to the newer address spaces is sluggish.
In a year-long study of 2,393 peering and backbone routers conducted by Arbor Networks, the majority of respondents (customer and peering interfaces) said IPv6 traffic is a small percentage of overall traffic.
"What we expected to find is that the migration to IPv6 is slow," Scott Iekel-Johnson, principal software engineer at Arbor Networks, told InternetNews.com. "I don't think you'd find anyone that expected there to be a significant ramp up in IPv6 usage. What was surprising in what we found is that there is no migration."
That's not to say people aren't using IPv6 and usage is not growing. Just not by as much as expected, given the size of the problem with Internet address space crowding. Arbor reported that IPv6 traffic grew to a peak of 150 mbps in the summer of 2008 from approximately 50 mbps in the fall of 2007. In comparison to IPv4 traffic though, Arbor reported that for the year that they have been looking at IPv6 traffic it only represented 0.0026 percent (or 26 one-hundredths) of IPv4 traffic.
"We saw a flat proportion of IPv4 to IPv6 over the course of the year," Iekel-Johnson said. "So although in aggregate IPv6 did grow, it's growing at about the same level that general Internet traffic is growing."
Arbor's study looked only at IPv6 traffic that is tunneled over IPv4, as opposed to looking at native IPv6 traffic. Tunneled traffic allows for dual stack applications where both IPv4 and IPv6 can co-exist on a network. According to Iekel-Johnson, native IPv6 traffic does exist but the reporting infrastructure is not able to measure it in the same way that IPv4 traffic can be measured.
Arbor's study did not specifically break out geographical disparities in IPv6 usage. In fact, the study represented some 65 ISPs in the Americas while only 6 ISPs from Asia Pacific are included. American carriers own more IPv4 address space than other geographies, which has been seen as a reason why adoption has been faster in Asia.
"We have some monitoring in Asia but we would like to see more there obviously Iekel-Johnson admitted. "It's not quite as comprehensive as the European and North American measurements."
Though Arbor's study may have some issues, at least one major IPv6 vendor praised the study.
"In general, we agree with the findings of the report issued today," Juniper Networks spokesperson Brendan Hayes told InternetNews.com. "It seems comprehensive and we appreciate the value of these types of studies as they help raise awareness and understanding of critical industry issues."