The urgent push to move the whole of Internet addresses off of a system never intended to replace telephone, television, and computing simultaneously, and onto the IPv6 address system, is now entering its 13th consecutive blockbuster year. Despite high-level government recommendations for action plans, a global DNS poisoning scare that many say could never have happened under IPv6, and a grass-roots effort to build an actual holiday around the transition, it's estimated that the rate at which the Asia/Pacific region is depleting IPv4 addresses is far outpacing the rate that hosts in that region are moving to IPv6.

It's almost as if everyone wants a real Internet, but too few want to lend a hand in building it. Now the Internet Society, its original non-profit guidance organization, is stepping up its push to make IPv6 more marketable, first with the launch of a new Web site called Deploy360, to be followed up next week with meetings with consumer electronics vendors at CES in Las Vegas.

"There are many organizations out there, including us, that are telling people they have to stop building on IPv4; they have to move to IPv6. A lot of folks just have not got what the implications are of continuing to move forward with IPv4," states Richard Jimmerson, the Internet Society's project lead for Deploy360, in an interview with ReadWriteWeb. "You're going to find a point where you can no longer grow, you can no longer innovate with your own products and services - along with everything else that's going on, on the Internet - with this limited IPv4 resource."

The dry well

The depletion of available IPv4 addresses has been a "dreaded" event for quite some time; and it's perhaps because of that perpetuated state - like an ailing dictator who just won't die already - that builders of enterprise networks have come to believe that the complete depletion of the old system will actually never happen. Unfortunately, it's during this same period that the Internet has evolved to support cloud services, where so many more addresses are required now than ever before.

"We're trying to reach out to organizations; we're doing everything we can to get the word out that they have to some more thinking," Jimmerson tells us. "They have to start moving to IPv6 now, so they don't run into a problem of not being able to grow their business just in the next couple of years."

Deploy360 is as assembly of "how" content, as Jimmerson calls it, explaining to different classes of Internet stakeholders - network operators, developers, content providers, CE manufacturers, and enterprise customers - ways to build transition agendas for their own businesses. He says there's already quite a bit of "why" information available, and while the Internet Society will continue to preach the "why's," a Resource Review Panel will locate and curate the "how" content that Deploy360 will feature.

"There has been so much work done over the years in IPv6 products and services that haven't seen the light of day yet," remarks Jimmerson. "People just haven't started marketing what it is they're doing yet." Major vendors such as Cisco and Microsoft already have IPv6 support built in, he adds, and those vendors are doing more than their fair share of evangelizing. It's the smaller vendors, however, that haven't gotten the message out that their own products are IPv6-capable, and may have been so for over a decade.

The first time I've heard that story

He tells us the story of his work with both the Internet Society and the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), speaking at conferences since the 1990s about the IPv6 transition. At one major consumer conference, a network products vendor with IPv6 already in its product line, was adjacent to the space where Jimmerson gave his talk.

Customers left that talk ready to make transition plans that moment. One customer stopped by the adjacent booth, where a representative listened to its story about the urgent need for IPv6 transition. The rep took down the customer's contact information, saying, "You're the first person to ask us about this!" Then the next customer in line presented a similar case. The rep then entered that customer onto the list, saying, "You're the first person to ask us about this!" And the next one, and the next one. By Jimmerson's count, he spoke to over a hundred customers that day.

He confronted the rep, saying his responses didn't make much sense for a company that was trying to sell exactly what these customers were asking for. The rep responded that his superiors had not yet finalized a marketing message for what he was allowed to say about the IPv6 support that his products already had.

While vendors procrastinated in assembling an IPv6 marketing message, the competitive stance of those vendors with respect to one another changed, Jimmerson went on. While the early IPv4 Internet was a collaborative effort, Jimmerson feels some vendors may be reluctant to elevate IPv6 to a priority, for fear that a competitor may gain an advantage in time-to-market. They're all ready to market, but no one wants to sound the gun unless someone else runs faster. And as a result, he remarks, customers don't perceive IPv6 as a real need, because vendors may be afraid to communicate it as such. "They believe in their mind that it's really not happening, and it's not true."

Lack of coordination about a transition plan may, Jimmerson warns, lead to a situation among broadband service providers where they fail to warn their customers to only purchase IPv6-supporting devices, including HDTVs and Blu-ray players, until after they've already made the transition in their own infrastructure.

It's with the hope of pre-empting this disaster that the Internet Society has planned an 80-minute tutorial for CE manufacturers, to be presented during next week's CES in cooperation with the IEEE, "giving them the very hard, sharp point about why they need to get moving quickly. At some point in the near future, residential broadband providers will begin advising their own customers about which devices will and won't work on their newly deployed IPv6 services in their homes. There could be a case, perhaps next year, where you have consumers returning products to electronics stores because they don't support IPv6."