CIOs view the IPv6 deployment as a cost, rather than a business benefit, and are dragging their feet when it comes to adopting the new internet protocol. That's according to a recent survey carried out by the IPv6 taskforce, a special purpose cross-industry group, supported by the Ministry of Economic Development and InternetNZ to encourage and steer IPv6 adoption. Of the 100 CIOs sent surveys, 46 responded.

The IPv6 deployment will become critical as the existing pool of IPv4 addresses runs dry, with some experts predicting this could occur as early as December this year. InternetNZ CEO Vikram Kumar says the protocol and addressing scheme for the internet will be an opportunity for businesses to make use of new technologies but the recent survey shows that message is not getting through and they still see IPv6 adoption primarily as a cost.

"New mobile networks, security systems and applications we haven't even thought of yet will utilise IPv6," Kumar says. "Mass applications of direct machine-to-machine communication also become practical - the incoming 'Internet of Things'," he adds.

Unless the business advantage of early IPv6 adoption are understood, Kumar says, business managers will not see a near-term need for the change and it will not be driven from the top.

Asked "what would help speed up your IPv6 deployment?" CIOs identified "a business driver or benefit" or "new public-facing business or service opportunities" as among the leading factors.

The recent survey is the second to be undertaken and hence provides some useful comparison with the parallel survey done last year. Many more CIOs now feel they are adequately or "very well" informed about IPv6 (74% of respondents, compared with 54% in 2009).

This year, 91% of the CIOs say they are aware that old-style IPv4 addresses are running out, up from 70% last year; but again this is only part of the message that needs to get through, says taskforce technical lead Dean Pemberton. Seeing it as a problem of address exhaustion, he says "it is tempting for business managers to dismiss their need for IPv6 by stating that they will not require any more IP addresses in the near future.

"However, they may run the risk of not being able to communicate effectively with partners or potential customers who have chosen to make IPv6 their preferred method of communication," Pemberton says. "Adopting IPv6 is as much about ensuring that you can continue to communicate with everyone on the internet as it is about requiring additional internet addresses."

Most managers (71%, only a slight drop compared to last year) remain unaware or "not especially aware" of either the threats or the opportunities driving them to IPv6, survey results say.

More than half the organisations surveyed are planning to implement IPv6 on their websites, email and other public internet services, with most of these (24% of total respondents) planning to make the move within a year. However, 46% (down from 54% in 2009) still say they have no such plans.

The position is even more discouraging for IPv6 champions when it comes to organisations' internal networks, where "no plans" is the response of 54% (slightly down from 57% last year).

IPv6 taskforce head Murray Milner acknowledges that the samples last year and this year are probably not strictly comparable. This shows in the fact that 74% of this year's respondents came from the public sector as compared with only 60% last year.

The same organisations were canvassed on both occasions, Milner confirms, except for a few that had ceased to exist or changed identity. The difference perhaps shows a greater impetus among government agencies to go public with their plans, Milner says, but it's hard to make assertions about the detail of information from such surveys. "I admit we don't know the degree of overlap [in respondents to the two exercises]," he says.

Another surprising figure is that the 3% of respondents who said last year their external services were already IPv6-capable have disappeared from this year's results. The figure now registers as 0%.

This may be due to them having misjudged their degree of readiness in 2009, Milner says, or it may be that those who were ready them didn't get around to replying this year, "we really don't know."

So are the results worth much at all? "They do give some worthwhile indications on the big questions," he says; "but on the detail, no, they're not very helpful."

Based on the results and other feedback, the taskforce sees a need to concentrate particularly on the interface between telco providers or system integrators and their clients. Seventy percent of respondents to the 2010 survey say telco providers haven't briefed them on their plans to support IPv6.