Way back in 1973, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf created the IPv4 platform. Over the next few years it became known as a path-breaking platform for its ability to cater to a sea of users.

A lot has happened since then.

The exponential increase in the number of the Internet's users has led to the exhaustion of 32-bit IPv4 addressees. This has necessitated the introduction of a new platform: IPv6.

None of this is news. But here's what is: The transition represents a revenue-spinning opportunity for channel partners. But only if they can figure out in what form the opportunity comes in and where to find it.

The V6 Engine

Theoretically speaking, the 128-bit IPv6 platform can support a gargantuan 340 duodecillion IP addresses. An increasingly tech-savvy economy like India, with an Internet-user population of 121 million and growing at about 40 percent a year, is going to want a lot of those addresses. At the same time, there's an explosion in the number of people accessing the Internet using mobile phones.

Soumyadeep Roy Chowdhury, research associate, Netscribes, agrees that mobility is going to drive IPv6 adoption. "The enterprise mobility trend is gradually catching up with a number of industries in India. IPv6 provides superior security enhancements and makes associated business operations less cost intensive," he says.

The Channel Play

On the ground, however, it isn't like IPv6 is at the top of a CIO's to-do list. But that's where the channel can make a difference, says Chowdhury. "Channel partners can play a crucial role in IPv6 adoption in India. They can engage customers, increase awareness, and help in the readiness assessment to implement necessary measures."

To be clear, educating enterprises isn't for charity; there's money to be made in the process. "Channel partners are major beneficiaries in this upgrade and migration, and can play a role with consultancy services," says Benoy from Frost & Sullivan.

That's exactly what Hyderabad-based Shell Networks did. "When you look at the opportunity of your client wanting to migrate to IPv6 from previous platforms, you need to understand the infrastructure of the client. So, what we are doing now is IPv4 to IPv6 migration analysis of the customer's network," says director A.L. Srinath.

Ananthram V. Varayur, director, Webcom Information Technology also thinks that there's plenty of consulting potential around IPv6. "Consulting as a business opportunity is vital for our current customers and new accounts. A lot of consultancy offers are coming up for IPv6."

What partners do is no rocket science, but it is, nevertheless, significant. They run a detailed study of a customer's network infrastructure and inform them of what's needed to make a transition to a 128-bit based IPv6 platform. "We plan to help customers with their queries related to IPv6's importance for the enterprise and how they should ideally make this transition," says Varayur.

In Bangalore, Peak XV Networks took the consulting gig one step further when it deployed IPv6-ready infrastructure for a retail company in the Middle-East. "We analyzed their network infrastructure and found that most of their equipment was only IPv4 compatible. To prepare them for the future, we helped them with an IPv6 transition across 30 locations in the Middle-East, and ensured that their entire network is IPv6 ready," says Deepak Hoskere, MD, Peak XV Networks.

Similarly, Noida-based Emarson Computers profited when it helped an MNC, working in the white goods space, migrate its existing network infrastructure to IPv6 across its branches worldwide. Sumeet Prakash, CEO, Emarson Computers, points out that there are two opportunities in the IPv6 realm: network expansion and compliance.

The Government Push

One vertical that's investing in getting ready for IPv6 is the Indian government. All government websites--including state government and PSUs--are mandated to be IPv6 compliant by December 2012. An IPv6 task force was created few years ago to ensure the completion of this project.

"The task force is open to SI's on a voluntary basis. It is not funded by the government. I am making an appeal to tier-2 and tier-3 channel partners to come forward and join the task force. This is a massive opportunity for them," says R.M. Agarwal, deputy director general, Networks & Technologies, Department of Telecom, GoI.

Kolkata-based Wizertech Informatics facilitated an IPv6 transition for a PSU. "We did an audit for them and provided infrastructure reports and costs relating to the upgrade," says Suresh Mishra CEO, Wizertech Informatics, who says that the margin for Wizertech's enterprise clients is about 25 percent.

Shell Networks is also in the process of assessing the networking infrastructure of a state government department in South India. "We have already given a scope document and a bid to the client. We are focusing on this opportunity because it's mandatory for state governments to be IPv6-ready," says Srinath from Shell Networks.

The government has also approved the creation of a Centre for Innovation for IPv6, which will be functional in a couple of years. This will invite more system integrators' and private entrepreneurs to join forces and assist the GoI in this migration. "We shall invite more such companies. This is going to be a PPP model (Public Private Partnership)," says Agarwal.

Migration to IPv6 is inevitable. It's now up top channel partners to turn it into a profitable venture. "A lot of services will be engaged to ensure a robust and efficient transition, which gives integrators a massive opportunity to rake in profits," says Wizertech.