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Facebook: IPv6 Is a Real-World Big Deal

Gabriel Brown

In a terrific video presentation posted from the company's @Scale Conference earlier this month, Facebook software engineer Paul Saab revealed that IPv6 now accounts for almost 50% of Facebook's 4G smartphone traffic in the US and predicted it will come to dominate IPv4 as major networking and Internet companies continue to push the technology.

Saab said extensive testing and analysis showed that IPv6 is 15% faster than v4 for Facebook users and highlighted removal of NAT (network address translation) devices from the forwarding path as the most significant reason for this.

Operator executives agreed that IPv6 is gaining currency rapidly and that NATs are problematic. "We still have too much NAT around; once you're IPv6-only that headache is gone… IPv6 gives you scale and simplicity," said Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg.

Verizon Wireless has been able to validate the 15% faster performance gain. Verizon's director of device technology, Samir Vaidya, said its customers gain the same sort of benefit from IPv6 as Facebook's. "Getting through NATs is problematic," said Vaidya.

Some of the other highlights from the video include:

  • Facebook says IPv6 increased from 1% of its global IP traffic in 2012 to 10% by September 2015, and is growing rapidly.
  • IPv6 usage in the US is much at higher, at 23% of total Facebook traffic. Mobile is higher, at 33%, and 4G smartphones higher still, with 45% now on IPv6 and forecast to surpass 50% by the end of this year.
  • Verizon Wireless said smartphones traffic on its network is already at 50% IPv6 and that 4G traffic to Facebook is around 80%.
  • Comcast said IPv6 is around 25% of traffic and growing (there's less impact from v6-capable 4G smartphones for cable operators). Chief architect for IPv6, John Brzozowski, also noted that v6 is very helpful when operators need to merge networks.
  • SK Telecom said IPv6 adoption is less advanced in South Korea, but Minguen Yooon, emerging technologies project manager, said v6-capable smartphones and compatible content are driving take-up.
  • Apple's move to make IPv6 support mandatory for iOS9 apps is expected to drive further adoption and will be an incentive for smaller application and content providers to make the switch from v4.
  • IPv6 is pretty much a "no-brainer" for the Internet of Things, everyone agreed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one place where IPv6 hasn't yet caught on is the corporate market, and that's a problem, says Saab. One of the reasons corporates are resistant is security, he said, because many users are concerned that their NAT is also their firewall! This is obviously solvable. (Side note: if ever there was a case for "decomposed" VNFs, here it is!)

After years of preparation, and a lot of hard work, it's great to see IPv6 start to pay-off. If you're even vaguely thinking about IPv6, I recommend you view the video, which you can see below:

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
9/29/2015 | 9:18:23 AM
Re: v4 vs. v6
@wanlord: The incident you shared is a sad reality. I don't expect from Telcos any better, barring a few. If you can't share which company it was; can you share which company was it?
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/29/2015 | 9:12:40 AM
South Korea? Slow?
Really surprised to learn that South Korea is slow in adoption of IPV6. It's a pretty advanced market in all things tech. Maybe it's because of the small population that they don't need scale ipv6 offers. South Korea and slow in one sentence is rare.
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/28/2015 | 2:32:14 PM
v4 vs. v6
Glad to see telco coming around, albiet slowly. I recall a telco network exec venting at some engineers a few years ago about why IPv6 was so challenging. He yelled "how hard can this be since with IPv4 it's 4 octets, and with IPv6 you just go to 6 octets"....
User Rank: Lightning
9/27/2015 | 2:43:10 PM
CGNAT ubiquity in Mobile makes the transition to IPv6 more compelling
CGNATs are ubiquitous in mobile. IPv4 was already being heavily rationed before Internet data service started grow significantly. The CGNATs are an extra expense, impair the service and prevent users doing things like port forwarding that they can probably still do on their residential broadband where CGNAT is much less prevalent.

Therefore mobile networks are very suitable for transition to IPv6. Replacing the private IPv4 addresses with IPv6 allows traffic from IPv6 content to bypass the CGNAT. It also means new IPv6-only services (e.g. VoLTE) do not have to replicate the network federations needed to avoid overlapping RFC1918 address space.
User Rank: Light Beer
9/25/2015 | 6:18:23 PM
NATS are nasty things
Good to see real-world examples of why Carrier-Grade NATS aren't a carrier-grade solution. 

It's something we were talking and writing about three to four years ago, but then it was mostly a theoretical discussion. 
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