The impending exhaustion of available IPv4 address space is finally motivating network operators to begin deploying to IPv6. There are two possible outcomes from this transition. IPv6 may be widely adopted and embraced, causing many existing methods that measure and monitor the Internet to be ineffective. In this transition scenario, the Internet will be even less well understood, and data even more scarce, than the existing, poorly instrumented IPv4-based network. A second possibility is that IPv6 languishes, transition mechanisms fail, or performance suffers. Either scenario demands new research on rigorous large-scale IPv6 measurement to inform technical, business, and policy decisions.

In this project, researchers from CAIDA and from the Naval Postgraduate School are engaged in measurements and data analysis exploring the evolution of IPv6 deployment. First, they are focusing on improving the fidelity, scope, and usability of IPv6 measurement technology as necessary for providing a comprehensive view of the IPv6 topology from core to edge. To attain this objective, the researchers are building new tools that will measure the characteristics of IPv6 adoption at the edge and developing new methodologies to compare characteristics of IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity. The resulting data sets will serve as input to the next task: correlating these observations with other available technical and socioeconomic data, such as address allocation, geographic and traffic data, ISP organizational structure, and political/regulatory factors potentially influencing IPv6 deployment.

Finally, CAIDA and NPS researchers are going to conduct quantitative assessment of IPv6 performance, including the impact of transition technologies and traffic characteristics. This study will improve the state of quantitative modeling of the IPv6 transition by gathering rigorous empirical data on the extent and effectiveness of converter technologies, investigating prevailing concerns over IPv6 performance and path inflation, and analyzing actual IPv6 traffic workloads on a major U.S. backbone.

The intellectual merit of this project includes solid empirically grounded understanding of the most difficult architectural transition ever attempted on the Internet, while simultaneously advancing the state-of-the-art in network measurement science and technology. A rigorous approach to the study of IPv6 deployment represents a compelling case study for the current Internet, with applicability to technology transfer challenges in other domains.

To maximize their broader impact, the results will be widely disseminated to research, commercial, and government sectors, informing communications and technology policies. Data, tools, and methodologies will be available to researchers and used to create accessible educational materials for future generations, who will be even more dependent on a robust Internet than we are today.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Darleen L. Fisher
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University of California San Diego
La Jolla
United States
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