Verisign is the latest major Internet player to sign up for World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of the next-generation Internet Protocol that is scheduled for June 8.
To participate in World IPv6 Day, which is being sponsored by the Internet Society, organizations agree to support IPv6 traffic on their public-facing Web sites. More than 80 Web site operators -- including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Bing -- have joined the World IPv6 Day trial.
"Verisign is committed to ensuring that the critical Internet infrastructure under our stewardship is fully prepared for rapid, wide-scale IPv6 adoption," said Danny McPherson, Chief Security Officer of Verisign, in a statement.
The goal of World IPv6 Day is for network operators to gather valuable information about how IPv6 functions in production mode and to quantify how many Internet users suffer from IPv6 brokenness, a term that refers to misconfigured or misbehaving gear that will result in some Internet users being unable to access Web sites that operate IPv6. Industry estimates are that 0.05% of Internet users -- or around 1 million Internet users worldwide -- suffer from IPv6 brokenness and likely don't know it.
IPv6 is the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices -- 2 to the 128th power.
Web sites such as Facebook and Yahoo are upgrading their Web servers, load balancers and software to support IPv6 because the Internet is running out of address space using IPv4.
In February, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) issued the last blocks of unassigned IPv4 addresses to the regional Internet registries, which will dole them out to ISPs and other network operators over the next few months.
Once IPv4 addresses are depleted, Web sites will need to either support IPv6 or use complex mechanisms such as carrier-grade network address translation (NAT) to communicate with IPv6-based users.
Many network vendors are jumping on the World IPv6 Day bandwagon as a way of demonstrating to enterprise customers that their IPv6-based products are ready for prime time. Among the companies that have signed up for World IPv6 Day are Cisco, Juniper, BlueCat Networks and Huawei.
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Akamai, which was one of the first companies to sign up for World IPv6 Day, said the event is driving demand for its new IPv6-to-IPv4 translation service, which is in beta production mode with several public sector and high-tech customers of its content delivery network services.
"The interest in our IPv6 technology preview has been fantastic; we have more customers than we anticipated," said Andy Champagne, vice president of engineering at Akamai. "World IPv6 Day in June has been a huge pivot point for us. We're enabling a lot of our customers to participate in that. We will have a commercial service capability out that allows them to participate in World IPv6 Day with minimal changes to the infrastructure on their end."
One segment of network operators that is lagging in signing up for World IPv6 Day is U.S. universities, particularly those that offer top computer science programs. Only two top-tier computer science schools -- Harvard and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -- have joined the World IPv6 Day effort.
Professor Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates chairman in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, said security issues were preventing the university from supporting IPv6 on its public-facing Web sites and services at this time. "I'm told there are a set of security issues that are pacing the IPv6 rollout, related to the readiness of various vendors' equipment upon which we rely," Lazowska said. "Things will be ready when they need to be ready," he added.