Cisco IPv6 revival addresses IP limits

Anticipating a shortage in the number of available IP addresses, Cisco Systems last week announced support for the IPv6 standard...

Anticipating a shortage in the number of available IP addresses, Cisco Systems last week announced support for the IPv6 standard in its Internetwork Operating System (IOS) router software. The new standard lengthens an IP address from 32 bits to 128 bits, which means more addresses will become available.

By embracing IPv6, Cisco's routers will be able to communicate with a wide range of Internet-enabled devices, including "cell phones, PDAs, even refrigerators," said Patrick Grossetete, Cisco's IPv6 product manager.

Some observers are sceptical about the demand for IPv6. Maria Zeppetella, an analyst at Probe Research, said IPv6 is unlikely to gain a strong foothold in the US for at least five more years. "If things are working OK now, why fix it?" she said.

Zeppetella added that IPv6 adoption is likely to be stronger in foreign markets. "Now that other countries like China and Russia are coming online, they're not too happy that there's just a small supply of addresses available," she said.

"[Carriers] are going to wait to see if customers demand IPv6," said T.J. Fitzpatrick, president of Valiant Networks, a California-based network consulting firm. Fitzpatrick also questioned the ease with which the new services will be deployed.

In addition, Fitzpatrick said performing upgrades such as updating databases will be like "trying to change the North American plan for dialling phones, with all the area codes, overnight. That's not trivial."

Todd Whipple, vice president of IPv6 technologies at ISP Zama Networks, said IPv6 demand is high. Customers are attracted to IPv6 because it offers better quality of service for applications such as voice and video.

Cisco's software upgrade will be available by the end of May in the 12.2(1)T release of IOS. A total of 14 router and server platforms will be supported. Cisco has announced that IPv6 capabilities will be available for its higher-end routers, such as the 7600 series and 12000 series, later in the year.

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