This is the dawning of the age of IPv6 -- and the cable industry says it's ready to rock ‘n' roll.
The next-generation Internet protocol will be the focus of the half-day IPv6 Summit at the Cable Show next week. The years-long transition from today's IP version 4 to IPv6 has gained urgency of late, because the entire pool of some 4.2 billion IPv4 addresses is expected to be fully depleted within the next nine months.
"We felt that it's really important that people understand the transition and understand what's involved in it," said Bill Check, National Cable & Telecommunications Association's chief technology officer and senior vice president of science and technology. "The IPv6 transition will affect all parts of the Internet -- whether you're an Internet content provider, consumer or service provider."
The underlying IP protocols are essential to the functioning of the Internet, providing the mechanism for how data is routed among servers and clients. But IPv4 and IPv6 are fundamentally incompatible, which means there will be a long period of "dual-stack" operation as usage of IPv4 fades away and IPv6 increases.
The Internet community has been discussing the move to IPv6 for well more than a decade, but the time to act is now, Check said.
"There really is going to be address exhaustion soon," he said. "Internet service providers will run out [of IPv4 addresses] in the beginning of 2012." IPv6 provides a cosmically large number of unique address, roughly 2 to the 128th power -- which, knock wood, shouldn't run out for many years.
Organized by NCTA and sponsored by Arris, the summit will feature keynotes and panel sessions featuring experts from inside and outside the cable industry.
The event kicks off in McCormick Place's South Building room S404 on Tuesday, June 14, starting at 8 a.m. with a keynote by John Curran, president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers. ARIN is the body that is responsible for assigning IP address blocks in North America.
One of the two panels will discuss findings from World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour global test of the protocol that spanned June 7 and 8 in the U.S. that was aimed at promoting IPv6 adoption and discovering critical technical issues. An estimated 0.02% of Internet users with older devices could have seen their access to websites (such as Google and Facebook) that turned on IPv6 for the test, Check said.
Check will moderate the "What the World Now Knows: Observations from World IPv6 Day" panel, with panelists scheduled to include John Brzozowski, Comcast chief architect for IPv6 and distinguished engineer; Lee Howard, Time Warner Cable director of network technology; and Phil Roberts, technology program manager of The Internet Society, which sponsored World IPv6 Day.
The cable industry has touted its readiness for IPv6. CableLabs has pointed out that it began working to incorporate the protocol into its specs starting in 2004, and IPv6 is a required part of the DOCSIS 3.0 spec.
"Generally speaking across all ISPs worldwide you will have IPv4 usage starting to ramp down and IPv6 start to ramp up and you will have a crossover occur," CableLabs project director of network protocols Chris Donnelly said.
Donnelly will moderate a panel discussing how IPv6 will affect service providers, content publishers, device manufacturers and others with executives from Best Buy, home networking equipment maker D-Link, service provider Premier Communications and Turner Broadcasting System.
The summit will finish with a lunch session from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. featuring a keynote address by Tom Powers, chief of staff of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.
"We've really set this up as an opportunity for different stakeholders to learn about IPv6," Check said. "It's meant to be more than a technical track."
Meanwhile, a special IPv6 demonstration area on exhibit floor, developed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, will showcase IPv6-compatible consumer electronics.
The IPv6 Summit is included with a full conference registration to the Cable Show; the lunch session is an additional $40 per ticket. NCTA also is selling summit-only passes for $250 per person (which includes access to the Tuesday general session and a Tuesday-only exhibit floor pass). According to Check, the summit has attracted people from the Internet community, who probably would not ordinarily have attended the Cable Show.