Why is IPv6 a priority area?
The rapid and continued growth of the Internet requires new measures to ensure that it can continue to meet emerging requirements. Europe's ambition to be the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010 can only be realised if the EU is at the forefront of this upgrading of the Internet's capabilities. Europe will only be able to maintain and build on its leadership in wireless and mobile communications if a rapid transition is made to the next generation Internet based on Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).
What are its advantages in comparison to IPv4?
IPv6 is a new version of the Internet Protocol, designed as a successor to IP version 4 (IPv4), the predominant communication protocol in use today. The changes from IPv4 to IPv6 are primarily in the following areas:
- expanded addressing capabilities
- header format simplification
- improved support for extensions and options
- flow labelling capability
- consolidated authentication/privacy capabilities.
Current developments and trends
At present, IPv6 is gradually being introduced. However this process needs to be accelerated to prevent the current IPv4 shortcomings from hindering the further development of the Internet. Its early introduction should ensure a more open and competitive arena for the provision of new generation services, and avoid much higher transition costs if that process is delayed. While IPv6 offers a bright future for the Internet, IPv4 will not go away overnight. As IPv6 is being deployed today, it is being used alongside IPv4. Early attempts for IPv6 deployment started in Japan with the 6bone IPv6 test network. Japan and other countries in which IPv4 address allocation had been historically low expressed strong interest for an early commercial implementation of IPv6.
Since September 2000 Japan played a leading role in the establishment of an IPv6 roadmap and by setting a deadline to upgrade all existing networks in the business and public sector to IPv6 by 2005. Japan sees IPv6 as one of the ways to promote the Internet and to rejuvenate the Japanese economy. An IPv6 Promotion Council has been established, which is responsible for the realisation of the e-Japan programme. The Japanese initiative was very crucial to the Asian region. Korea might follow suit by announcing plans to roll out IPv6. Taiwan has also taken a decision for an early rollout and has notably established an IPv6 Steering Committee. Bilateral consultations between China and Japan have taken place on the means to further promote IPv6.
Though most of the design of IPv6 and vendor implementations has been done in the USA, the business case for IPv6 in this country has not been felt as acutely as in other world regions. The US has been allocated more than 70% of IPv4 address space and is not yet in as critical a position as Asia or Europe. However an industrial initiative towards the establishment of a North American IPv6 Task Force was launched in December 2001, reflecting the pressure for an upgrade of the Internet.
IPv6 research at European level
Within the IST Programme several IPv6-related projects were launched in 2001. Directly related are the projects 6NET, 6WINIT, Euro6IX and LONG, all of which are providing IPv6 platforms for experimentation. The project LONG addresses the design and deployment of IPv4/IPv6 transition scenarios. 6WINIT is setting up and validating an operational IPv6-3G Mobile Internet, with customers having native IPv6 access points and services in a 3G environment, using applications mainly in the clinical and m-commerce domains.
Euro6IX and 6NET are both providing major real-scale IPv6 pan-European test-beds, using mostly native IPv6, with the objective to gain a better understanding of deployment issues. Euro6IX involves a large number of European Telecom Operators. It focuses on the Internet Exchange aspects of the network implementation using 34 Mbps in the core. It also aims to validate the new technology in a realistic setting where the different factors which exist in the present Internet are extrapolated to the IPv6-based next generation Internet. It provides a unique space where leading European ISPs can validate the technical and business cases for IPv6. 6NET is providing a high capacity core network, up to 2.5 Gbps, that will be used for experimental applications such as IBM France (e-business and GRID software) or Sony Europe (new IPv6-oriented applications). It involves also a large number of European NRENs and will use resources from GEANT and NORDUnet networks.
What is the role of the cluster project?
In early 2001, the IPv6 related projects expressed the need to have an IPv6 cluster which could provide a platform to the IST projects for the development of liaison mechanisms, ranging from the exchange of technical information to the organisation of common trials. The IPv6 cluster (www.ist-ipv6.org) started in June 2001. Its main objective is to set up a platform for exchange of information and experience on agreed methodology for the benefit of the IST projects. This is achieved through discussion groups, common reports suitable for publication, periodic common workshops, common trials and demonstrations. Standardisation activities are addressed through concerted contribution and the distribution of reports.
- IPv6 FORUM: www.ipv6forum.com
A worldwide consortium of leading Internet vendors and NRENs are shaping the IPv6 FORUM. Its mission is to promote IPv6 by dramatically improving the market and user awareness, creating a quality and secure Next Generation Internet and allowing worldwide equitable access to knowledge and technology.
- IPv6 Task Force: www.ipv6-taskforce.org
This is an initiative of the European Commission in April 2001. It includes representatives of European ISPs, telecom operators, mobile operators, equipment supply industries, Research Networking, and key "application" sectors. By the end of 2001 it had developed a comprehensive action plan, aimed at ensuring the timely availability of IPv6. The Task Force's recommendations can be found on its web site.