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The evolution from IPv4 to IPv6 is increasingly taking centerstage as a response to IPv4 address exhaustion in the wake of emerging 5G, cloud and IoT trends across industry verticals.

Convening industry experts, operators, vendors as well as other stakeholders, the IPv6 summit themed "IPv6 Enhanced, boosting the digital economy" was successfully hosted by Informa Tech during the MPLS, SD & AI Net World Congress 2022 in Paris, France.

Key insights included IPv6 industry trends, national digitalization development, standards progress and industry update on SRv6 technology and interoperability, covering operators’ digital transformation journeys and vendors’ viewpoints on industry development.

Kickstarting the summit, Sameer Ashfaq Malik, senior principal analyst from Omdia, highlighted that IPv6 is critical to supporting IP-enabled devices for a global population of 7 billion, with just 4.3 billion IP addresses remaining on IPv4. Capable of enabling high-speed, efficient, flexible and intelligent next-gen Internet by providing differentiated service capabilities to meet industrial Internet requirements, Sameer noted that “IPv6 Enhanced innovation can power full connectivity to the trillion-dollar B2B vertical industry market”.

In his keynote speech, Latif Ladid, chairman of the ETSI IPE Alliance shared that IPv6 Enhanced can comprehensively improve network capabilities and build an intelligent-cloud network. He shared that the ETSI IPE Alliance is actively promoting IPv6 development and innovation, with more than 80 members including governments, operators and vendors exploring the full value of IPv6 Enhanced in various scenarios such as 5G, cloud and data centers. With 1.9 billion global IPv6 users by the end of 2021, this trend is quickly gaining momentum as countries including the US and China adopt favorable policies to develop IPv6.

Taking the stage to share IPv6 development in France, Jean-Charles Bisecco, an expert from IPv6 Task Force, ARCEP, offered an overview of IPv6 deployments across the country’s major operators, adding that by 2024, more than two in three terminals are estimated to use IPv6, and more than 90% of operator fixed networks adopting IPv6.

IPv6 has made great progress in recent years and laid a solid foundation for SRv6 –the core of IPv6 protocol innovation and other protocol innovations such as BIERv6 and APN6. These technologies can power agile and differentiated network services for different services, customers and scenarios.

Spotlighting on development of IPv6 standards, Zhenbin Li, member of Internet Architecture Board (IAB), IETF, delved in-depth into the three phases when developing IPv6 Enhanced standards, namely establishing basic SRv6 capabilities, supporting new network services for 5G and cloud, as well as APN6 for application-aware IPv6 networking.

IPv6 delivers new values and services for networks including: flexible integration of different network based on affinity to IP reachability; provide more encapsulations for new network services; cross the chasm between applications and network based on affinity to IP and network programming conveying application; and promote IPv6 combining to satisfy more address spaces. Finally, Li shared IETF’s network slicing framework and growing IP network slice deployment across operators.

In his speech, Carsten Rossenhovel, managing director and co-founder, EANTC AG, cited testing for “SRv6 in telecom operator use cases including enterprise and cloud data center services and 5G x-haul networks”, covering VPN and VPWS over SRv6 for vendors to ensure seamless services. Validations also extend to various functions for deployment including SRv6 and MPLS network interworking ready for the legacy network migration challenge, the high availability of SRv6 network with TI-LFA, SRv6 FlexAlgo defined  constraint-based routing for 5G and other advanced use cases. All these interoperate user cases involve multiple vendors participation, including Cisco, Huawei, Juniper, and Nokia. Concluding that vendor support for SRv6 is growing, Rossenhovel opined that “SRv6 is ready for prime time”.

Operators chart successful IPv6 development

Network infrastructure is the foundation for IPv6 development. At the summit, operators spoke at length on their evolution to IPv6 and SRv6 deployments.

Francois Bouju, IP backbone network architect of Bouygues Telecom, one of the top three operators in France, noted that the operator has witnessed rapid IPv6 development in recent years.

“IPv6 traffic has been growing, depending widely on user factors such as operating systems and applications, but mainly on end service compliance such as Netflix, which accounts for between 20%,” said Bouju. In the consumer market, Bouygues Telecom currently implements regionalized IPv4 and IPv6 pools allocation to allow backbone architecture changes. Bouju added that plans are underway for IPv6 to be the basic stack, while IPv4 will be complementary and shared among some users. In two years, its fixed networks are due to be IPv6-only.

In line with IETF’s propositions, Luis Miguel Contreras Murillo, technology expert at global CTO unit, Telefonica, emphasized that “SRv6 is the target solution as a unified transport mechanism in operational networks”. In his speech, he added that operational networks will evolve to SRv6 because of their flexibility and TE capabilities, and network slicing will be the new norm for providing tailored services for customers.

Also from an operator’s perspective, Carlo Richartz, fixed network director of Post Luxembourg, the largest service provider covering more than 60% of Luxembourg’s market, shared POST’s aim to build a IPv6 and SRv6 target fixed network by 2027. Currently, POST deploys 400GE network interfaces to provide ultra-high speed network coverage exceeding 90%, provide 2B SLA assurances through SRv6, flexi-slicing and iFIT, and optimize OPEX through protocol simplification and artificial intelligence.

Touching on intelligent cloud-network construction in South Africa, Calvin Govender, general manager of fixed line technology services, MTN, noted that MTN has successfully leveraged a more than 90% fiber coverage to debut the world’s IPv6 Enhanced-based intelligent cloud-network, using the CAASI framework to provide one-stop connection to multiple clouds, one-stop service, and deterministic service assurance.

IPv6 to unleash connectivity potential for accelerated transformation

Digital economies now account for more than twice of overall GDP across most countries and regions. As countries embrace digitalization through national strategies, Daniel Wu, CTO, Europe branch of Datacom product line, Huawei stressed the need to evolve traditional IP networks to support higher demands on network flexibility and deterministic network quality stemming from a surge in IoT devices and increased multi-cloud connectivity.

Speaking from a vendor’s perspective, Wu noted that adopting IPv6 technologies to scale up IP addresses is not enough. “Optimized connectivity will require innovative IPv6 Enhanced technologies for better deterministic quality, programmability, and maintainability.”

This evolution requires a phased development to continuously improve network quality. The first phase involves network programming for quick provisioning and path optimization, the second phase is assuring guaranteed SLAs, while the third phase is establishing highly-autonomous application-aware networking.

For operators, the IPv6 Enhanced-based intelligent cloud-network solution delivers differentiated cloud access private lines based on their network advantages, providing users with fast and smooth cloud access. On the access side, the one-box multi-connection solution helps users quickly access clouds. On the aggregation side, the pan-private line scheduling solution enables unified access and smooth evolution, and on the backbone side, the SRv6-based intelligent cloud-map algorithm enables optimal scheduling of cloud-network resources.

Citing an example, Wu shared that China Telecom Ningxia utilized Huawei’s Cloud-Network Express to gain more than 2,000 new industry tenants within a year, and grow revenue by more than $5 million. Similarly, Huawei applied IPv6 Enhanced to smart manufacturing, using multi-network integration to reduce network construction costs by 35% and increase production efficiency by 30%. To date, Huawei has amassed more than 100 IPv6 Enhanced enterprise applications across countries and industries. Finally, Wu shared a study that IPv6 index positively correlates to a country’s GDP growth.

Transitioning to IPv6 and IPv6 Enhanced will benefit countries on many levels, drive innovation and entrepreneurship, foster science and technology development, build the foundation for digital economy transformation, and fuel economic recovery and growth in a post-pandemic era.

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