Top Automotive Website Gets Ahead of the Internet Race by Reaching Out to IPv6
Tan Jinglun (left), IT director of SgCarMart and Derrick Lim (right), the assistant IT manager.
As the largest automotive website in Singapore, SgCarMart (www.sgcarmart.com) was convinced of the need to upgrade its website to support IPv6. With the depletion of IPv4 addresses in the Asia-Pacific region, SgCarMart started migrating to IPv6 in September 2011, said its IT director Tan Jinglun.
SgCarMart took about six months to upgrade its network, and now has the ability to offer existing IPv4 services on an IPv6 network. It adopted the common dual-stack migration method that allows IPv6 hosts and routers to co-exist with IPv4 systems, making sure its online services can service users from both IPv4 and IPv6 networks.
Since its humble beginning as a three-man team in mid 2004, SgCarMart has steadily progressed and grown to a vibrant and dynamic company with 40 employees. The website now boasts 34.8 million page views and over 630,000 unique visitors a month.
For online companies such as SgCarMart, whose lifelines depend on Internet, the primary motivation for making the switch to IPv6 is clear: with IPv6, businesses can be assured that their services will continue to be accessible to customers when the next-generation Internet addressing system becomes prevalent.
"Our users will eventually move over to IPv6 so if we don't support the technology, they won't be able to access our website in future," Tan said. "From a business perspective, supporting IPv6 also means we won't have to worry about running out of Internet addresses when we roll out new services," he added.
With IPv4 addresses running out, some companies have been scooping up any remaining addresses which are fast becoming scarce and expensive resources. Last year, software giant Microsoft purchased over 660,000 IPv4 addresses from Nortel Networks for US$7.5 million (or US$11.25 for one IPv4 address). By migrating to IPv6, SgCarMart can also avoid paying hefty fees to secure IPv4 addresses - which are now being traded on unofficial market channels - and maintain its competitive advantage.
In addition, SgCarMart is also exploring business opportunities in Indonesia and other emerging markets. Upgrading its networks to IPv6 also allows SgCarMart to tap on those markets where IPv6 adoption is expected to accelerate. China, for example, already has the second most number of IPv6 addresses in the world after Japan, according to figures from Telecom SudParis, a graduate engineering school based in France. The number of IPv6 connections allocated to India has also grown by over 120 per cent over the past decade, according to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).
Moving to IPv6 will also allow SgCarMart to maintain its lead over its competitors. SgCarMart currently tops the 30 automotive websites frequently visited by local audiences, according to a 2012 Hitwise industry report.
SgCarMart first came to know about the need to migrate to IPv6 through IDA's IPv6 Transition Programme. SgCarMart is currently in the midst of its IPv6 transition. Derrick Lim, SgCarMart's assistant IT manager, revealed that some of the challenges they faced include getting familiar with the long addresses and lack of IPv6 reference industry deployments. "We also have to ensure our existing IPv4 hardware and software will continue to work after IPv6 was introduced into their system," said Lim, who relies on information on the Internet to learn more about IPv6 migration issues.
Although IPv6 has been designed to enable ease of security implementation (e.g. IPSEC is a built-in feature of IPv6), it is a relatively new technology where mitigation mechanisms against cyber threats are still in the works. For example, like IPv4 websites, IPv6 websites have also become targets for denial-of-service attacks that attempt to flood computers with high volumes of Internet traffic, Lim said.
On the state of IPv6 adoption among Singapore companies, Tan said: "Businesses are not looking at IPv6 right now because most of them are not facing the full impact of an IPv4 address crunch". However, he added that more companies are likely to sit up when their businesses take hit when IPv4 fully depleted and no more IPv4 addresses can be acquired".
Experts generally agree that there are economic benefits of migrating to IPv6 sooner than later. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Technology Administration, companies can reduce costs in network downtime by taking advantage of IPv6's end-to-end architecture. The technology's built-in quality-of-service (QoS) capability also lets enterprises take advantage of applications that demand near real-time, interactive and peer-to-peer connectivity, such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls, video conferencing and remote collaboration tools. For example, the switch to VoIP calls from conventional circuit-switched telephone calls could save enterprises 20 per cent or more on telephony expenditures.
Companies can reap these benefits by migrating to IPv6 early. By doing so, they can afford to take the necessary time to plan, implement and fine-tune their networks rather than scramble to set up a sub-optimal new network later when in face of the IPv4 full exhaustion problem.
To help companies get up to speed with IPv6, IDA has developed an IPv6 Transition Programme microsite (www.ida.gov.sg/ipv6) that offers a wide range of information and resources. The IPv6 Market Place, for example, provides organisations with information on IPv6-ready products, consultancy and training services that are available in Singapore.
Tan said: "The information provided by IDA's IPv6 Transition Programme is certainly helpful for companies who may not know how to start migrating to IPv6. The product marketplace is also useful for companies that are sourcing for the right products and support".