Slowly but surely, IPv6 is taking over, and more and more individuals and entities are using it every day. Still, most internet routing is done through IPv4, and it’s clear that this older protocol will remain a part of the internet for the foreseeable future. Since the benefits of IPv6 adoption are so clear, why is its adoption taking so long?
While nearly all new networking equipment supports IPv6, many legacy devices only offer partial support or only work with IPv4 addressing. While many companies upgrade their equipment regularly, others are reluctant to upgrade networking infrastructure that continues to work well. These companies range in size, and many are large enough that internet service provides can’t afford to drop support. This equipment is being replaced regularly, but the sheer cost of upgrading slows overall adoption rates.
Lack of Competition Among Internet Service Providers
Internet service providers are some of the strongest advocates for IPv6 adoption, but the lack of competition for providing service means that there is no reason to advertise IPv6’s advantages or invest more heavily into upgrading equipment, especially in smaller areas. Furthermore, many second-tier internet service providers rely on the same equipment as the larger companies, and they may have no means of upgrading equipment. Monopolies and duopolies tend to preserve the status quo, and this is also true of IPv6.
IPv6 Advantages are Collective
Adopting IPv6 means that addressing space will no longer be a problem, and it provides excellent flexibility for large networks. For most networks, however, these differences are small and possibly invisible. The advantages of IPv6 primarily affect the internet in a collective manner, but most employees and customers of companies won’t see much of an effect on their work. Internet service provides and other entities can provide incentives, but most of the demand for IPv6 comes from the top, which doesn’t spur adoption the same way more grassroots-level demands would.
Lack of Backwards Compatibility
The design goals of IPv6 revolved around developing a new protocol free of the limitations of IPv4, and these design sensibilities should pay off in the future. The lack of backwards compatibility with IPv4, however, means adopting it requires far more work than a compatible model would demand. Because of this, groups that would otherwise be interesting in upgrading are delaying until the benefits of IPv6 adoption outweigh the costs, and many entities simply haven’t reached this point yet.
IPv6 adoption is increasing, and it’s simply a matter of time before it’s the dominant protocol. However, the transition period is longer than many projected, and IPv4 will still play a major role for years to come. While the process will be long, the benefits mean that the internet as a whole will be able to keep up with continued or accelerating growth. More resources are available at BlueCat if you would like to learn more.