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Commentary: IPv6 interest in Asia

Cisco Systems will sell products that use IP version 6 primarily in the Asia-Pacific region rather than in North America.

By Lawrence Orans, Gartner Analyst

Cisco Systems will sell products that use IP version 6 primarily in the Asia-Pacific region rather than in North America.

Businesses focus mainly on applications, and

See news story:
Cisco software to make more connections
almost no applications have been written for IPv6. For that reason, businesses are not screaming for IPv6 networking products. However, this new protocol will make it possible for the proliferation of addressable, Web-enabled devices to continue indefinitely because IPv6 can support many more IP addresses--that is, the unique strings of numbers that identify a particular computer on the Internet. IPv6 supports 128-bit addresses rather than just the 32-bit addresses available from IPv4, which is now in widespread use--the longer the address, the more unique addresses that can be assigned.

The need to support more addresses will pinch first in Asia-Pacific and in developing nations because North American businesses and other enterprises grabbed so much real estate at the start of the Internet boom. For example, some major research universities in the United States reportedly have more IP addresses than the largest developing countries in Asia. It's no surprise, then, that Cisco's first customers for IPv6 products include regional companies such as Nippon Telegraph & Telephone and Seattle-based Zama Networks, which focuses on Asia-Pacific.

Gartner believes that Cisco will gain a marketing advantage by becoming the first major networking vendor to support IPv6 across the broad spectrum of its products. Cisco's products will appeal to many of Asia's new network service providers that want to upgrade old equipment to global standards and can implement the latest technology without having to worry about migrating a nearly new legacy infrastructure. Cisco's announcement will also strengthen its lead as a provider of IP-routing technology. Cisco's formidable marketing organization will no doubt get the utmost mileage out of this.

IPv6 is at an early stage in its development. Vendors improved the performance of IPv4 products chiefly by incorporating routing and forwarding capabilities in the hardware. Products today support IPv6 on software alone, so its performance is bound to increase over time.

Nevertheless, Gartner believes that five years from now, North American businesses will still favor networks based on IPv4 because they would face too much pain to convert to IPv6. This will almost certainly be the case for wire-line networks. Some North American businesses will eventually turn to IPv6 offerings because the growth of the wireless sector will cause the number of addressable devices to balloon. Indeed, Web-enabled cell phones, personal digital assistants, and many other wireless devices continue their rapid growth, despite the economic slowdown.

IPv6 addresses will be important for wireless devices that connect directly to the Internet. However, where devices gain Internet access via corporate gateways, as is the case for wired PCs, proven IPv4 address-management principles will still apply.

(For related commentary on IPv6, see registration required.)

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