Five IPv6 Trends for 2024

07/02/2024

By Henri Alves de Godoy – Computer Network Analyst | Professor Ph.D. | IPv6 Evangelist

As the number of interconnected devices increases and the Internet of Things (IoT) advances exponentially, the adoption of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) emerges as a necessity to sustain the continuous expansion of the global computer network. Several significant trends are beginning to shape the IPv6 deployment landscape, and these are impacting sectors ranging from cybersecurity to operational efficiency.

As an increasing number of countries acknowledge the urgency of adopting IPv6 to support the exponential growth of connected devices, we anticipate a substantial global expansion of the protocol’s implementation by 2024. Governments, universities, companies, and various organizations will intensify efforts to update their network infrastructure, ensuring robust and reliable connectivity on an international scale.

In this ever-evolving scenario, we will explore five key trends that will shape the IPv6 adoption landscape in 2024.

1. IPv6-Only Datacenters

Currently, most datacenters operate in dual-stack environments, supporting both IPv4 and IPv6. However, the trend is that there will be an increase in the implementation of datacenters operating exclusively with the IPv6 protocol as a strategy to prepare for the future. This helps avoid the challenges associated with the coexistence of IPv4 and IPv6 and facilitates integration with native IPv6 services and applications, while also reducing the processing load on network devices and increasing the efficiency of routing operations, particularly in high-traffic environments.

Tech giants and cloud service providers such as Google, Meta, and Microsoft have led the adoption of IPv6-only in their datacenters. These companies recognize the benefits of IPv6 and are at the forefront of implementing the protocol in their datacenters to meet future challenges, such as the scarcity of IPv4 addresses.

Serving the public that continues working with IPv4 and wishes to use the services based in an IPv6-only datacenter is entirely possible with the help of the SIIT-DC transition mechanism, so there is no reason not to enable the services of an IPv6-only datacenter to operate with a single protocol: IPv6 by default.

I discussed this topic in greater depth in the presentation “Towards IPv6-Only Datacenters” I gave at LACNIC 40, an event that took place in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Additional reading:

2. Segment Routing over IPv6 (SRv6)

Segment Routing over IPv6 (SRv6) is an innovative architecture that offers a flexible and efficient approach to routing in IP networks. It allows IPv6 packets to be routed along predefined routes known as “segments” and identified with an IPv6 Segment Identifier (SID). These segments can represent specific functions or instructions for routing the packet. This provides a more efficient and flexible way to control network traffic.

The increased adoption of an IPv6 Segment Routing architecture by Internet providers in 2024 is important for the consolidation of an IPv6-only transport scenario, as it guarantees the possibility of eliminating IPv4 from the network infrastructure while supporting the needs of emerging services related to the 5G mobile telephone network. It is particularly suitable for virtualized and programmable network environments. It aligns well with the evolution towards software-defined networks (SDN) and facilitates the implementation of dynamic policies in virtualized environments.

SRv6 plays a critical role in modernizing ISP networks by allowing them to address increasingly complex challenges and offering a smarter, more flexible approach to IP traffic routing.

3. Transition Mechanisms

The need for IPv6 transition mechanisms in 2024 is a direct response to the growing challenges related to the shortage of IPv4 addresses and the increased demand for global connectivity.

In 2024, the transition to IPv6 remains a strategic priority to ensure a robust, scalable, and secure Internet infrastructure. To achieve this, transition mechanisms play an essential role, as they facilitate the temporary coexistence of IPv4 and IPv6 environments and ensure the transition to a fully IPv6-based infrastructure. Investing in these mechanisms is crucial to address imminent challenges and sustain the continued growth of global connectivity.

Selecting which mechanisms to use depends on the specific needs of each organization and allows them to maintain connectivity and leverage the advantages of IPv6 while effectively managing the transition stage. Existing mechanisms include:

  • NAT64: NAT64 is the most popular transition mechanism and performs unicast translation of TCP, UDP, ICMP (RFC 6146). It is used by devices that support IPv6 but wish to access services which are only on IPv4. It must be used together with another component called DNS64 (RFC 6147). Unfortunately, it compromises the operation of systems that have literal IPv4 addresses in their code (e.g.,  http://192.168.0.10/index.php).
  • 464XLAT: According to RFC 9386, 464XLAT is the most popular option in the mobile world. This mechanism solves the difficulties faced when using NAT64, as legacy devices or those that do not support IPv6 receive a non-routable IPv4 address as a dual-stack network, thus combining two techniques (RFC 6877). This mechanism requires running a daemon known as clatd on intermediate network devices or equipment. Currently, the biggest challenge is that many CPEs are not yet ready, so mobile service providers would not have as much trouble replacing end users’ legacy CPEs to activate this transition mechanism.
  • SIIT-DC: This mechanism is used when we want to work with an IPv6-only network in our datacenter (applications and servers). It is described in RFC 7755 and provides service compatibility with those still originating from IPv4 addresses. If desired, it can be combined with NAT64 (to address certain situations). Its adoption is growing, driven by the IPv6-only datacenter landscape.

As the shortage of IPv4 addresses becomes more critical, the trend is to use IPv4 addresses exclusively for IPv4aaS mechanisms. However, we should not get used to transition mechanisms. These have a purpose and should have a short lifespan. To learn more about transition mechanisms, you can check out “The Evolution of Transition Mechanisms Towards IPv6-Only Networks” presented at  GTER 52 during Internet Infrastructure Week in Brazil.

4. Operating Costs and Incentives

As networks grow and evolve, maintaining an IPv4-only infrastructure can become more complex from an operational point of view. Operating costs associated with IPv4 are likely to increase in 2024, especially in cloud environments, and could have an impact given the growing shortage of IPv4 addresses. The result of this shortage is higher costs for those organizations that choose to continue operating with IPv4 only, as many organizations often resort to strategies such as  NAT (Network Address Translation) to share a single public IP address between multiple devices. This adds complexity to network configuration and maintenance, especially in large infrastructures, and increases the operational burden due to the need to maintain IP address records and subnet management.

Examples of this increase include the  announcement by  Amazon Web Services (AWS) notifying that it will be charging for IPv4 addresses starting on 1st February 2024. The cost will be US$0.05 per hour and close to US$4 per month. While this amount is not very significant, it is an initiative that other cloud service providers such as  Cloudflare, Google, and Oracle should follow.

The growing adoption of IPv6 by network and telecommunications operators, companies, universities, and governments could generate financial incentives for transitioning to IPv6 in 2024. Additionally, some service providers may offer more competitive pricing for the IPv6 services that are part of their portfolio.

An excellent example of an unprecedented incentive is the Open Content Delivery Networks (OpenCDN) project, an initiative of  CGI.br and  NIC.br which seeks to contribute to the development of the regional Internet and local IXPs, decentralizing infrastructure and with a better distribution of content throughout the country. In 2024, exempting the charges for IPv6 traffic for project participants will be analyzed as a form of incentive and to attract customers who value the adoption of the IPv6 protocol.

5. Growth of IPv6 Traffic

Lately, IPv6 traffic has been growing steadily due to several factors, including increased awareness of the importance of IPv6 adoption and increased support from service providers and companies.

Google’s IPv6 statistics reveal that each year IPv6 traffic increases by approximately 5%. Therefore, it is likely that global adoption will break the 50% barrier by the end of 2024 and reach a point where the demand for IPv4 addresses will begin to decrease and, therefore, so will prices and market value. An article published by  LACNIC titled “Mathematical Forecast of IPv6 Deployment” shows that, in some countries of South, Central, and North America, IPv6 deployment will exceed 50% of Internet users by 2024.

Major Internet service providers and online platforms will continue to lead IPv6 adoption. As more users access these providers’ services, IPv6 traffic will tend to grow. In addition to the increase in traffic, the number of Internet providers offering IPv6 to their end users will continue to grow in 2024. This is demonstrated by the Research on the Internet Service Provider Sector published in  TIC Proveedores – 2022 in December 2023, according to which, in 2022, 64% of providers offered IPv6 to their customers, an increase of 24% compared to 2020.

Native IPv6 integration into devices and operating systems is critical for widespread adoption. As new devices enter the market, their IPv6 support tends to be enabled by default. The gradual phasing-out of support for IPv4 is inevitable, and this will further incentivize the transition to IPv6.

The views expressed are those of the author of this blog post and do not necessarily reflect the views of LACNIC.

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