The University of Southampton

ECS helps support new Internet Protocol deployment on World IPv6 Day

Published: 
10 June 2011
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The biggest test of IPv6 in action took place on Wednesday 8 June when ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton joined the world's major content providers including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, CNN and the BBC in the Internet Society's World IPv6 Day.

Companies and organizations around the world offered their content and services for 24 hours over the new IPv6 Internet Protocol. ECS has been contributing to the development of IPv6 for many years, and runs IPv6 throughout its own network, so was able to participate fully and help validate the new technology by encouraging its staff and students to use Facebook, YouTube, the BBC and other sites available via IPv6 on the day.

IPv6 is the successor to the existing IPv4 protocol that enables the vast majority of the Internet to work today. The current challenge is that the last unused IPv4 address space was allocated to Regional Registries in February this year, so it's becoming very important for everyone concerned with future Internet growth to gain experience with and to begin deploying IPv6. The new protocol can run alongside IPv4 - a process known as 'dual-stack' - for the foreseeable future, but eventually IPv6 will become the dominant Internet Protocol as its much larger address space will allow billions of new devices to connect to the Internet.

ECS has been researching and using IPv6 for several years, but to date there has been very little high profile content available via IPv6 outside of other academic research networks. On Wednesday, as ECS staff and students used their normal web browsers to access many of the world's top commercial web sites, those connections were running over IPv6 rather than tIPv4. The event proved that IPv6 is mature and ready for wider deployment, and also equally importantly that other people still using IPv4 were not adversely affected by Google, Facebook and others offering their content over both protocols.

"We shipped over 100GB of IPv6 traffic on 8 June, which was significantly more than we've ever done before, without any reports of connectivity problems for our users," said Dr Tim Chown, who has led ECS's IPv6 research and deployment work since the late 1990's. "It's been a fantastic day for the future of the Internet. The fact that the general public wouldn't have noticed anything different on Wednesday, while some of the world's most popular web sites ran IPv6 alongside IPv4 is a huge success. It's a great testament to all those people who have been working for many years to make IPv6 what it is today, and of course to the Internet Society for arranging this first coordinated IPv6 test flight. We've just begun analysing all the data we've collected from the day, and are already hopeful that a World IPv6 Week won't be too far away now."

ECS' home web site has been available dual-stack, via both IPv4 and IPv6, for many years. While Google, Facebook, the BBC and other World IPv6 Day participants will also be analysing the data they've gathered, some sites have been left available over IPv6 since Wednesday, including some of Google's YouTube video content, the Facebook developer's site at developers.facebook.com and Microsoft's gaming site at www.xbox.com. "While previous measurements by Google and other researchers have shown that as few as 0.05% of users have problems connecting to dual-stack sites, that's still a lot of people," said Dr Chown. "Wednesday's data will help Google and others to get that figure even lower, so that turning on IPv6 permanently for all their services becomes a real possibility. The challenge then is to encourage ISPs to deploy IPv6 to their customers. While IPv6 deployment is growing in academic networks, the larger commercial ISPs are lagging behind, especially in the UK."

Mat Ford, Technology Program Manager at the Internet Society commented "IPv6 deployment is fundamentally about the future scalability and utility of the Internet, and World IPv6 Day was a major milestone in the road towards that deployment. The day was always about exposing the diversity of the Internet's networks and users to IPv6 connectivity, so support from a long-established and thriving IPv6 network like that at ECS was extremely welcome. At the Internet Society, we've been thrilled with the support for the event, and it's very gratifying to see that many participants have seen this 'call-to-arms' as an opportunity to enable IPv6 and leave it enabled."

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