World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of next-generation Internet services, went as smoothly as participating websites had hoped, sparking comparisons to the dawn of the new millennium passing without any Y2K-related incidents.
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme to allow vastly more devices to be attached directly to the Internet, but it is not backward compatible with IPv4.
Launched five months ago, World IPv6 Day is a trial of IPv6 sponsored by the Internet Society that has attracted the Internet's most popular websites including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Bing. The event was designed to allow website operators to identify any problems with the emerging standard before they deploy it in production mode.
"The key phrase that is being used by World IPv6 Day participants is that it has been uneventful, and that is absolutely the best thing that we could have expected," says Martin Levy, director of IPv6 strategy at Hurricane Electric, which claims to have the world's most interconnected IPv6 backbone.
"World IPv6 Day made a lot of large companies really get their act together. They used it as a deadline for deploying IPv6," Levy adds. "Hopefully a lot of people will leave it on because they are not finding a lot of brokenness."
Jean McManus, executive director of Verizon's Corporate Technology Organization, also used the word "uneventful" to describe the carrier's experience with both its LTE network and its www.verizonbusiness.com websites over the last few hours.
"We're not really taking calls with customers having issues," McManus says. "Some users may have broken connections, but they are either not going to call into tech support or it's not out there in the volumes that people thought because at this point we are not seeing the calls. ... We are really pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it's gone."
McManus adds that Verizon hasn't reported any IPv6-related security incidents, either. "We are seeing nothing out of the ordinary right now," she says. "Knock on wood that it will stay the same."
IPv6 traffic spiked last night when World IPv6 Day began, and it has continued to be elevated since then.
Arbor Networks reported that overall IPv6 traffic volumes had doubled during the first 12 hours of World IPv6 Day.
BY THE NUMBERS: IPv6 traffic surges at launch of World IPv6 Day
"We saw a massive jump that we publicized on our Facebook page within the first hour," Levy says. "The numbers are still small when compared to IPv4. But I would say that we've seen a fivefold increase in IPv6 Web traffic, and the day is not over."
Akamai, a content delivery network supporting 30 participating websites, experienced a peak of 458 hits/second of IPv6 traffic one half hour after the trial began. Akamai is averaging 287 hits/seconds -- a tenfold increase over IPv6 traffic levels prior to the event.
"We saw a fantastic surge of IPv6 traffic, but on an absolute scale it was still a really small percentage," says Andy Champagne, vice president of engineering at Akamai, who added that IPv6 still represents less than 1% of total Internet traffic. "We will do 10 to 15 million hits/second on IPv4, and we're doing 500 with IPv6."
Champagne says Akamai has not seen more broken IPv6 connections than expected, nor has it noticed any major attacks aimed at IPv6.
"The Internet is under constant attack, and a lot of it is insignificant," Champagne says. "We did see some DoS attacks that were going on over IPv4, and when folks switched to IPv6, the attacks switched to IPv6. But it still wasn't material. We haven't seen any massive attacks."
Champagne says Akamai is pleased with how World IPv6 Day has gone so far.
"What we're happy about is that it looks pretty anticlimactic," Champagne says. "Now folks can be a little bit more confident about using IPv6 in production because everybody went into the water today and found out that the water is fine."
McManus is hoping that content providers such as Google and Yahoo will follow up with the success of World IPv6 Day by permanently enabling IPv6 on their sites.
"If folks really aren't seeing the brokenness, and assuming the data holds for the rest of the experiment, then are the websites going to keep their Quad A [IPv6-based] DNS records and stop whitelisting?" McManus asks. "I hope that's what's going through their minds right now as they feel more comfortable with IPv6."
The tech industry admits that the uneventful nature of World IPv6 Day is drawing comparisons to New Year's Eve 1999 and the threat of the Y2K bug.
"World IPv6 Day did not inspire the panic and bunker-huddling that Y2K did, but it has been as uneventful," Champagne concedes.
"It has been surprisingly boring and anticlimactic. This is a good thing," Levy sums up. "IPv6 is working the way it was meant to work. ... After today, we could see significant momentum to do a lot more IPv6 work."