World IPv6 Day means the Internet is watching

Wednesday - 6/8/2011, 10:08am EDT

Tim Winters, Senior Manager, UNH-IOL

Click below to hear the interview

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

It's World IP Version Six Day. Some large Internet Service Providers, federal departments and agencies, hardware manufacturers, software publishers and online companies like Facebook are testing the next generation of Internet Protocol, IPv6.

"Everyone's paying attention to IPv6 today, so you'll know if something breaks and then you can go and fix it before you really go to roll out IPv6 on a permanent basis."

Tim Winters, senior manager of the Interoperability Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, explained to Federal News Radio today is an experiment. The idea is simple enough: turn on IPv6 on large and major websites and then track how many people could use it. "If we've done our job, you shouldn't notice any difference." Winters said he expects less than a percentage point of Internet users might not work as anticipated, "and they're what we're trying to find."

You might not even really notice something is wrong, said Winters.

"It'll look like it hangs, so your screen, your web browser will be blank, is the best way I can describe it. And then after about 30 seconds or a minute, depending on your operating system, it'll all of a sudden come up and what's happening there is it's trying IPv6 and failing and then going back to IPv4. And that's the kind of people we want to find because they have broken IPv6."

If you have a problem, you can go to test-ipv6.com to help analyze what might be wrong.

IPv6 is very different from IPv4, explained Winters, in that "we have a billion or so devices on networks. It's a lot more complicated and people making a lot more money, so you can't have it break, or have time to fix these issues. So a lot of the programs and testing needs to be done because it's just a different world when IPv4 was created."

Asked if there's an IPv7 anytime soon in the future, Winters quickly replied, "I hope not!" He then pointed out it shouldn't be needed anytime soon. "The difference in address space was the current v4 fits in a golf ball. If you took all the addresses that existed in the old protocol, they'd fit in a golf ball, and v6 fits in the sun."

The federal government is under a mandate to adopt IPv6. For more about that, including why IPv6 is "the underpinning" of NSTIC, listen to the entire interview using the audio player at the top of the page.