This week the Internet experienced a series of “hiccups”. Doesn’t sound too serious, “oops, I hiccuped, pardon me.” However, the reality is that these hiccups actually represented a major issue with the underlying infrastructure of some of the Internet. And for many businesses, the result of these hiccups was poor performance or their sites and online business being completely down for portions of the Internet.
For a more detailed look at the hiccups and their underlying causes, you can read this article by my former colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. However, if you want the short take on why these Internet hiccups are happening, it’s because people and businesses are lazy and cheap. The cause behind these Internet issues is the amount of old hardware and software that is still in use at major crossroads of the Internet, old hardware that doesn’t support the next generation of the Internet’s underlying technology, namely IPv6.
We’ve been talking about the move to IPv6 from the current IPv4 for years now, in fact, I wrote my first article about it in 1997. And many have talked about the need for this upgrade, both from the standpoint of the performance and security benefits that come from IPv6 to the fact that we are running out of IPv4 addresses. But despite all of this talk, businesses have been slow to make the move.
As part of Aberdeen research into emerging networking trends, we asked businesses about their IPv6 adoption. In mid-2012, 7% of organizations said that they had made the switchover to IPv6 while 66% said that they planned to in the next twelve months. That number proved to be very optimistic. When we re-asked this question in late 2013, 10% of businesses had moved to IPv6 (just a little shy of the expected 73% number) and now only 27% said that they planned to in the next year. Why not? After all, who needs IP addresses, or Internet connectivity?
Of course, when I’ve mentioned these numbers to some in the networking community, I’m typically told with confidence that it’s OK, because the ISPs, carriers and other businesses at the core of the Internet have made the move to IPv6. Oh yeah, well the hiccups from this week beg to differ. As Steven’s article points out, the Internet issues stem from old and out of data equipment at ISPs and other key Internet connectivity providers.
Ok, I get it, IPv6 is plumbing, and no one likes to spend money on plumbing. You know those pipes in your basement are rusty and likely to give at some point, and you really do intend to get your plumbing fixed and upgraded. Just as soon as you finish the kitchen redesign, and the new deck, and oh yeah, that awesome home theater.
And just like how the plumber warned you those old pipes would inevitably start to leak, the potential for the recent Internet hiccups have been well understood and network engineers have warned that this would happen.
But what was the cost of these hiccups? There aren’t any hard and fast numbers out there but, given the number of sites that couldn’t do business, the performance that was downright unusable and the number of ISPs, cloud providers and other businesses that are paying off on failed Service Level Agreements, I don’t think many millions of dollars lost due to these “hiccups” is a high guess.
Hopefully, these recent events will be a wake-up call and businesses will stop relying on network technology that was old when Bill Clinton was president and Yahoo was the top dog on the Internet. Because, in today’s world, we can’t afford to have the Internet we all rely on springing lots of leaks. Hiccup (excuse me).
For more on emerging networking technology, read the Aberdeen report Don’t Let the Rising Tide of New Technologies Swamp Your Networks