LR Live: The Real Rationale for IPv6

There's actually money to be made here, and it's not just because IPv4 numbers are running out

July 15, 2011

3 Min Read
LR Live: The Real Rationale for IPv6

NEW YORK -- IPv6 2011 -- Conventional wisdom says IPv6 adoption is being driven by the pace at which the pool of available IPv4 Internet addresses is running dry, but network experts here yesterday offered a more compelling motivation: Keeping the Internet simple, to save innovation.

Keynoter Doug Junkins, CTO of NTT America Inc. , made this case most directly. Innovation, he said, is tied to the expansion of computing power, which rides not only on Moore's Law but on "exponential growth of any-to-any computing and persistent storage."

Any way of addressing the IPv4 numbering problem short of native IPv6 adoption -- network address translation (NAT), in particular -- interferes with the any-to-any connectivity by setting up points in the network through which all traffic must travel. These gateway devices not only become bottlenecks but undermine service providers' ability to tailor services based on geographic locations or user-specific data. (See The Ugly Side of IPv6: Carrier-Grade NAT.)

"We need to maintain simplicity in order to be able to really scale this network," Junkins said. "'Simple' means we can have any device on the network communicate directly with any other device, rather than having to aggregate things into large data centers."

Others throughout the day stressed the value of maintaining the end-to-end connections around which the Internet was first built.

Widespread adoption of IPv6 would restore the "two-way Internet" and enable applications at a massive scale such as machine-to-machine communications, said Latif Ladid, president, IPv6 Forum . He called these potential new apps "the new Internet tornadoes."

"We will be able to do things in a certain way with IPv4, but they are harder to do and require greater expertise," Ladid said. "Those that think NAT is going to survive the new Internet tornadoes are wrong. We will see 10 killer apps that are bigger than the Web," and those will require the massive new address availability of IPv6. The "Web of things," agreed Junkins, will be enabled by IPv6. "It is not revolutionary, but without it, we will stagnate."

There were even concerns raised about creation of a two-tiered Internet: a top tier of users with permanent IP addresses and direct connections, and an underclass sharing a pool of IPv4 addresses and connecting through NAT devices. The extra delay caused by NAT could disturb applications such as video and even VoIP.

"One integrated network system is more stable and secure and offers the opportunity to participate fully in global developments based on Internet technology," said Elise Gerich, vice president of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority of ICANN . Without a seamless technology transition, late adopters in developing regions may not have the same access to applications and technologies as early adopters.

Some NAT will be required to support billions of connected devices that are IPv4-only, said Alain Durand, principal networking architect and software engineering director, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). But service providers who rely on network-based NAT to preserve their remaining IPv4 addresses risk being perceived as offering "a downgraded IPv4 service," he said.

"Which users do you put behind a NAT?" he asked. "Is it only NAT for new users? Often those are the users that bring you the most revenue. Why would you offer a degraded service to those who bring the most revenue? What if there is a backlash?"

These are all reasons why the IPv6 community continues to urge ISPs and enterprises alike to adopt IPv6 technology in a dual-stack approach, said John Curran, CEO of American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) , the North American distributor of IP addresses.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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