As freely available IPv4 address space continues its long slow decline, no major standard or Internet governance body has been able to declare a "flag day" or end date for IPv4 and a real transition to IPv6. As is often the case with advancements in modern technology, it will be a vendor that helps to push the shift. With IPv6, that vendor is Apple. Apple is now positioned to be the single most significant vendor in the world to make wide-scale IPv6 adoption a reality, in 2015.
Apple products, like those from Microsoft and Linux vendors as well, have supported IPv6 for several years. But starting with iOS 9 and the Mac OS X 10.11 el Capitan release, IPv6 will not just be supported, but preferred.
The IPv6 preferred networking stack makes use of the IETF's "Happy Eyeballs" specification for dual IPv4/IPv6 stack hosts.
Apple networking engineer David Schinazi wrote in an IETF message that the Happy Eyeballs implementations in iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 mean that instead of a 50/50 preference for IPv4 vs IPv6, as in prior Apple operating system releases, 99 percent of connections in the new releases will favor IPv6.
"While our previous implementation from four years ago was designed to select the connection with lowest latency no matter what, we agree that the Internet has changed since then and reports indicate that biasing towards IPv6 is now beneficial for our customers," Schinazi wrote. "IPv6 is now mainstream instead of being an exception, there are less broken IPv6 tunnels, IPv4 carrier-grade NATs are increasing in numbers, and throughput may even be better on average over IPv6."
That means that hundreds of millions of Apple users around the world will have devices by the end of 2015 that will prefer IPv6.
Now it's up to mobile carriers and ISPs to deliver on Apple's IPv6 enablement and set IPv6 as the default addressing when a DHCP address request is made. Website hosts will also need to step up and make sure they have AAAA IPv6 DNS records and IPv6 capable hosts to meet the new demand.
IPv6 has not really grown all that quickly, but with Apple's new policy, the opportunity for massive IPv6 adoption is finally here.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.