World launches IPv6

Major Internet Service Providers, home networking equipment manufacturers and web companies around the world are permanently enabling Internet Protocol Version 6 for their products and services today, following last year’s successful test run on World IPv6 day.

As the successor to the current Internet Protocol, IPv4, IPv6 is seen as being critical to the internet's continued growth as a platform for innovation and economic development

In Africa, Internet Solutions (IS) reports that it has been approached by AfriNIC, the governing body for IP addresses in Africa, to move Africa's IPv6 Lab from Mauritius to South Africa. The Lab will assist in developing necessary engineering skill for the effective deployment and adoption of IPv6 throughout Africa. The Lab provides online training in IPv6 for people in Africa. In support of promoting widespread deployment of IPv6 across the continent, IS is providing free hosting and bandwidth for the new Lab.

IS adds that last month, at the AfriNIC 16 conference in Gambia, IS provided IPv6 connectivity to the conference  out of its London IPv6 node. “The purpose of this was to demonstrate the capabilities of IPv6 and to prove that Africa can connect to the rest of the world on an IPv6 level,” says Prenesh Padayachee, chief technology officer at IS.

“IPv6 needs to be much more widely adopted, so we see this as a development exercise,” says Padayachee. “We need to uplift engineering skill around IPv6 in a cost-effective and efficient way, so we're supporting the AfriNIC Lab in order to help achieve this.”

IPv6 is intended to replace the current version, IPv4. Every device connected to a computer network has an IP address for the transfer of data between hosts. Because of the enormous growth of the internet and the proliferation of connected devices, the addresses in IPv4 are running out, which resulted in the development of IPv6. The early test networks of IPv6 began in the mid-2000s.

“When the addresses available on IPv4  run out, fewer devices can be connected to the internet on an individual address basis,” says Padayachee. “With more and more devices connecting to the internet, the need to be individually addressable is very important. IPv6 provides additional security features as well, to benefit a much more connected society.”

IS is already able to peer to the Johannesburg and Cape Town internet exchanges as well as the New York and London internet exchanges at an IPv6 level. Local service providers now have the ability to assign IPv6 addresses to any devices connecting through them and pass this traffic at an IPv6 level through to IS.

“The path to running a full IPv6 network is long,” says Padayachee. “On the network that we currently run, all the major global nodes are enabled to run both IPv4 as well as IPv6 traffic. From a DNS perspective, we are able to resolve IPv6 addresses. We are also running some traffic and content feeds via IPv6.”

Although the upgrade to version 6 makes sense, some companies and people are still wary of making the change. IS is addressing any concerns its customers may have by running both versions concurrently, to ease the process. “It is necessary that we do this in small steps,” Padayachee says. “We have a strong  capability and we can run both versions, giving people an easy migration path.”

IS has the second largest IPv6 allocation for the AfriNIC region. It is able to provide 2 535 301 200 456 460 000 000 000 000 000 addresses – an allocation that Padayachee says is unlikely to run out in the foreseeable future. 

The Internet Society's CITO, Leslie Daigle, speaks on the world IPv6 launch.

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