The Internet (R)Evolution

 The Internet (R)Evolution

WILL YOUR COMPANY BE LEFT BEHIND?

By John Curran

What would CEOs say if they were told the Internet their business relies on was never intended to be the commercial platform it is today? How would they react if told that the ceiling limiting the number of addresses supporting the Internet’s expansion has been reached and that the current Internet is evolving in order to support the network’s continued exponential growth?

These aren’t just theoretical questions. The foundation of the Internet as we know it is changing and it will require companies large and small throughout Texas and the world to act to maintain their competitive advantage and adapt to the way they interact with customers and collect mission critical information over this new network. Adopting Internet protocol version 6, IPv6, is how companies can protect and continue to grow their businesses in the Internet age.

There has been a monumental shift in the way people consume content, shop, and access information over the Internet. 2014 will mark the first year where mobile browsing overtakes fixed Internet access. Consumers, no longer tied to a desk, demand constant connections which further fuels the growth of mobile computing and has created an entirely new product category beyond smartphones known as the Internet of Things.

Estimates of the number of connected devices swelling the marketplace are staggering. Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices and each one will require a distinct IP address to connect to the Internet. According to Tim Berners-Lee, considered to be one of the fathers of the World Wide Web, we have passed the billion mark on the number of websites populating the Internet; websites that require distinct IP addresses.

This is the crux of the problem. The current addressing scheme for the Internet known as IPv4, or Internet Protocol Version 4 has run out of room and can’t handle the growth in IP address demand. The infrastructure of the Internet was simply never designed to carry the volume of devices and websites now in use throughout the world. The American Registry for Internet Numbers, the nonprofit organization responsible for administering IP addresses to the United States, Canada and most of the Caribbean, announced earlier this year that it only has a few IPv4 address allotments remaining. To keep the Internet expanding, the network is turning to a new addressing system, known as IPv6.

From a CEO’s perspective, why does this matter? That is a responsible question to ask and its answer has direct implications on the future of business whether it is focused on e-commerce or not. Here are four critical reasons CEOs need to pay attention to the IPv6 transition:

  1. First, IPv6 enables companies to engage with the full spectrum of customers trying to access their company’s services over the Internet; especially through modern IPv6 enabled mobile devices.
  2. Second, IPv6 maximizes a brand’s impact on the growing mobile market. Large network IPv6 deployments by the leading service providers mean that IPv6-ready content is crucial for reaching mobile users and optimizing the mobile experience. Also, IPv6 has become an important part of responsive web design for mobile optimized content. Companies require the global visibility that only IPv6 can provide.
  3. Third, IPv6 is critical for analytics. Companies large and small today depend on a broad spectrum of analytical data that plays an increasingly important role in business planning and investment strategy. Without IPv6, a company will not be able to see non-IPv4 traffic, denying it the whole picture of who is accessing their website, leaving it blind to changes in customer behavior.
  4. Finally, IPv6 maximizes a company’s return on its existing website investment. As more and more devices connect to the Internet, more will be running just IPv6 so IPv4-only networks and applications will not perform properly for this rapidly expanding market segment.

Each of these four points ties directly into a company’s competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive and digital marketplace. IPv6 adoption provides favorable positioning against competitors who are late to adopt the new standard. Adopting IPv6 early can position a company as a leader in technology, and as we know all too well in today’s competitive marketplace, those who lead from behind get left behind.

Most CEOs are not regularly engaged in the day-to-day inner workings of their company’s IT departments, nor should they be. However, IPv6 will play such an important role in e-commerce and data collection that C-Suite executives should be involved in the strategic aspects of transitioning to the new system. As a leader, there are a number of things a CEO can do to smooth the transition and make it part of a company’s overall business strategy.

Of paramount importance is the need to outline a plan to get to IPv6. Research the time and cost required to transition websites and IT infrastructure to IPv6 compliance. Create a timeline to work against that estimate. Bring the CIO and Level 3 IT support staff into the discussion and make them key partners in the planning process. The implementation of IPv6 doesn’t just impact a corporate website or online storefront, it directly impacts the ability to collect analytics. For this reason, all departments, from the IT side to the business side must have a seat and a voice at the table.

IPv6 is here, and it will provide an Internet with enough address space to allow for innovation and growth. It is critical that companies large and small include plans for IPv6 in their strategic planning. It’s time to reach the whole Internet, not the old Internet.

John Curran is the President and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), responsible for leading the organization in its mission of managing the distribution of Internet number resources in its geographic region. He was also a founder of ARIN and served as its Chairman from inception through early 2009.

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