Most readers are probably already aware that the Internet as we have known it for the last 20 years is running out of addresses. For those that haven't been paying attention to the details, the Asia Pacific region effectively ran out in 2Q 2011, Europe effectively ran out in 3Q 2012, and North America will likely face effective run-out somewhere around 2-3Q 2014.
However, the impact of run-out can be rather indirect, depending on the nature of your organization. Nonetheless, the bottom line from run-out is that we need a bigger address space in order for the Internet to keep going. Fortunately, this bigger address space was developed more than 20 years ago and is rapidly being deployed in some areas of the Internet. However, if your organization isn't one of those areas, it's time to pay attention to this.
IPv6 is not strictly an IT problem. It is an organization-wide problem and it needs to be approached as such. If you have a proactive IT department, then they will need support throughout the organization since this is a major transition that will touch virtually every system in the entire company. If you have a reactive IT department, then they will not only need support, but also something between some gentle nudging and a strong push from management in order to start tackling this issue.
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The organizations that have had the most successful IPv6 transitions all have one thing in common: A strategic vision for the company from senior management that has been driven throughout the organization as a critical business continuity issue.
If you've read this far and are thinking "That's all well and good, but my network seems to be running just fine, so it can't really be that bad, can it?", then bear with me for just a couple of additional paragraphs. If your organization already has an IPv6 deployment strategy, then you can stop reading here and go pat yourself on the back.
What happens if I don't have an IPv6 strategy?
Today, not a whole lot. There are only a few websites that you can't reach. There are only a few users on the Internet that can't get to you and only a handful that don't have as good a user experience getting to your organization as they would have if you were on IPv6.
However, that number is growing rapidly. According to Google, at the end of 2010 (over three years ago), less than 0.25 percent of all users even had access to IPv6. By the end of 2011, that had nearly doubled. By the end of 2012, it had roughly doubled again to just over 1 percent. At the end of 2013, we were already significantly over 150 percent of 2012 and the curve is definitely taking on a parabolic shape.
At the current rate of acceleration, we can expect the majority of the Internet to be IPv6-enabled around the end of 2015. It should, however, also be noted that these measurements likely underreport the number of IPv6-capable users because this capability can only be detected if the user actually makes use of that capability. Due to certain technical realities, not all capable users are actually using IPv6 at this time.
Depending on the size of your organization, it may take considerable time to get from starting to develop a transition strategy to the point where you actually have IPv6 fully deployed on your infrastructure. Two years might be just barely enough time, or you might only need six months. Unfortunately, until you go through the planning process, you simply cannot know how long your organization will take.
Starting around the end of 2014 and certainly by the end of 2015, the consequences of not having IPv6 deployed on your network will begin to escalate, and likely will be quite visible some time in 2016.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson