IPv6 traffic represents far less than 1 percent of global network traffic. That said, the migration to IPv6 is still believed to be a necessity, it will just happen slower than originally anticipated – perhaps in 10 years.

Those are the key results from a study of IPv6 conducted by Arbor Networks, based on input from more than 90 Tier 1 and Tier 2 network services and content providers from around the world.

IPv6 is intended to be the next primary communications protocol for packet-switched inter-networks. The transition to IPv6 is considered important primarily because current projections indicate that there will be no more IPv4 addresses available within the next few years. The results of a yearlong research project provide, for the first time, a global perspective on the amount of IPv6 traffic on the Internet.

“It is now clear the original optimistic IPv6 deployment plans have failed,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor Networks’ chief scientist. “However, the eventual exhaustion of IPv4 allocations is very real, and IPv6 adoption will happen. Based on our analysis, at the current rate of adoption, we are a decade or more away from pervasive adoption of dual-stack support for IPv6.

“With that said, throughout the world, government mandates are spurring IPv6 adoption. For example, in the U.S. a federal mandate was met and all major vendors publicly declared their IPv6 readiness. The Beijing Olympics are being highlighted as the first global showcase for IPv6 technology by China’s government. Despite the slow start, there’s reason for optimism.”

For this study, Arbor collaborated with 91 ISP customers representing a broad cross-section of global Tier 1 IP network service providers and regional Tier 2 ISPs, as well as large content providers, hosting companies and broadband access providers. Arbor collected anonymized data that covered 2,393 peering and backbone routers, as well as 278,797 customer and peering interfaces, and was seeing 4 Tbps of inter-domain Internet traffic, making this the largest and most comprehensive study of IPv6 traffic to date.

Traffic data was collected via flow export from peering, aggregation and customer-facing routers at each participating network by commercial flow measurement appliances, and by in-line or offramped deep packet inspection (DPI) devices deployed at key points in the network. This report focuses only on IPv6 traffic that is tunneled over IPv4 using IP protocol 41, which is universally reported by the monitored routers.

Arbor observed steady growth in the amount of IPv6 traffic across its one-year analysis, from roughly 50 Mbps during the early fall of 2007 to approaching a peak of 150 Mbps during the summer of 2008. More precisely, there was a 113 percent increase in the mean inter-domain IPv6 traffic observed during the first quarter of the study and the final quarter of the study.

Arbor observed that:

  • The amount of aggregate inter-domain IPv6 Internet traffic appears to be increasing.
  • IPv6 traffic is still a tiny percentage of overall Internet traffic; by one conservative estimate, by the end of July 2008, there was about 600 Mbps of inter-domain IPv6 traffic compared with 4 Tbps of IPv4 traffic – in other words, tunneled IPv6 traffic represented only 0.0026 percent of overall IPv4 traffic.
  • The proportion of IPv6 vs. IPv4 traffic stayed roughly the same over the last year.

The full report is available here.

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