Will colleges be ready for big internet change?

World IPv6 Day is June 8.

A Canadian campus has converted to the latest internet protocol, but with just a few weeks until web giants give the new protocol a test run, questions remain about higher education’s readiness for the long-awaited transition.

The global proliferation of numerical addresses for web-capable computers and phones has led to a shortage of IP addresses in the current IPv4 platform. The next generation of IP address – known as IPv6 – will offer exponentially more addresses, IT experts said.

Time to convert might be running short.

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June 8 will be World IPv6 Day – organized by the Internet Society — when major sites like Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google will operate on the new protocol for 24 hours, hoping to motivate IT officials worldwide to prepare their networks for the switch.

The last batch of IPv4 addresses was distributed in February.

It’s unclear if colleges and universities are ready for the switch, and a recent survey from Ipswitch Inc. shows that many U.S. networks aren’t completely converted to IPv6.

Nearly nine in 10 enterprise network managers surveyed said they were not fully prepared for the IPv6 switch, and only 12 percent said they were 80-100 percent ready. Two-thirds of respondents had just begun the conversion process.

Laurentian University in Ontario announced in April that it was the first campus in Canada to convert its website to IPv6. The university published a list of Canadian colleges that had not implemented the new protocol and maintained a blog detailing the steps to converting to IPv6.

Georgian College, an institution with three campuses in Canada, is on its way to adopting the new protocol, a college IT official said during a presentation at the IPv6 Summit at the University of Ottawa in April.

Georgian IT staff set out to convert to IPv6 within three months.

Steve Benoit, Georgian College’s IT manager, said campus technologists found they didn’t need entirely new equipment to leave the old web protocol, according to a May 3 report from IT World Canada.

“We found out that a lot of our stuff was [IPv6] capable. We just needed to configure it and understand it,” Benoit said during his presentation. “As we looked at our stuff, we already had IPv6, the edge router was v6 capable, the DNS server popped up an [IPv6] address, it was totally coincidental.”

Georgian College officials did not respond to a voice mail left by eCampus News.

Benoit said he first had to make sure the campus could maintain an IPv6 connection. Georgian IT staff checked with their internet service providers to see if they offered IPv6 – a process many American colleges and universities might start as the new protocol becomes mandatory.

Higher education has been “earlier on the IPv6 adoptions curve” than many in the business world, said Ed Horley, co-chair of the California IPv6 Task Force, which has raised awareness of the transition from the depleting number of IPv4 addresses and offered strategies for switching to IPv6.

Moving away from IPv4 to IPv6 could become profitable for colleges and universities that have had to trim operation budgets in recent years, he said.

“Some may even capitalize on the IPv4 depletion problem and sell portions of their existing IPv4 address space they aren’t using to help with revenue shortfalls,” Horley said.

Many colleges are prepared for the switch, he said, although most campuses that have already enabled IPv6 for student use are in Canada, Asia, and Europe.

Tim Chown, a computer science professor at Southampton University in the U.K., is among a group of researchers that have tracked IPv6 developments for about 15 years, according to the university.

Chown, who helped launch the university’s first IPv6-run device in 1997, has advocated “dual stacking,” or running IPv6 alongside IPv4 while institutions are making the shift.

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