IP protocols/software

Cisco to Service Providers: Get Moving on IPv6

Perhaps the biggest challenge of the transition to IPv6 -- the consumer broadband market -- still lies ahead of most service providers, and they need to get moving, according to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

In an interview following the announcement of Cisco's first broadband ISP customer for its carrier-grade IPv6 platform, introduced more than a year ago, Mike Capuano, director of service provider marketing, says upgrading the broadband infrastructure and replacing modems and mobile phones that aren't IPv6 capable is a major looming challenge. (See Free Picks Cisco IPv6 and Cisco Paves Path to IPv6.)

"Ideally this would have all been taken care of five years ago," Capuano says. "But every major service provider is working on it."

Volume is a major issue in the consumer world, where there may be millions of end points that need to be replaced, along with infrastructure that has to be upgraded to manage the coming transition.

"The CPE [customer premises equipment] in the home is definitely a big issue in terms of the clock and how long this will take... but it's not limited to those end points, it's the whole infrastructure," Capuano says.

Service providers such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have been testing IPv6 in their consumer broadband networks, even though most of the carrier discussion around IPv6 has focused on the enterprise community. (See Where Are Comcast's IPv6 Volunteers? and VZ Begins IPv6 Testing on FiOS.) In Cisco's world, the transition to an all-IPv6 world is a three-stage process –- dubbed Preserve, Prepare, and Prosper -- and will take a decade-plus. With the exhaust of IPv4 addresses looming next year, as early as May, the Preserve phase is well underway.

"The last available block of IP addresses is expected to be given out in May of 2011, which isn't that far off," Capuano says. "Because of that the idea, we need to preserve the IPv4 address space we have and use it well while we work with service providers to migrate to a hybrid v4/v6 network, which we call the Prepare phase, before we get to an all-v6 network, which we call the Prosper phase."

There are multiple ways of preserving precious IPv4 addresses. Two common ones are IPv6 rapid deployment technology, also known as 6rd, and Large Scale NAT (network address translation), also called LSN.

Setting IPv6 free
French broadband provider Free is implementing 6rd, Capuano says. 6rd allows a customer premises equipment device such as a modem/router in the home or a mobile phone "to have a v6 address facing inside the home and v4 facing outside to the Internet." This approach uses IPv6-over-IPv4 tunneling to take the IPv6 packets over an IPv4 infrastructure, terminating on a Cisco ASR 1000 aggregation router, which can then send the IPv6 packet into a data center that has mainly V6 content.

The LSN approach pulls network address translation, currently done mostly at the customer premises, into the network. NAT enables one public IPv4 address to be used to support multiple private IPv4 addresses within, for example, a home network, thus conserving IPv4 addresses. By doing NAT within the network core, Capuano says, LSN can use one public IPv4 address to support 100 private IPv4 addresses, taking conservation a major step farther.

"If you look across our portfolio -- the ASR 1000, ASR 5000, ASR 9000, and the CRS-1 and 3 -- that's our fundamental set of platforms that have been enabled with the carrier-grade v6 capability, which means they allow all these different functions, 6rd, LSN and the tunneling and translation functions that actively manage the migration from v4 to v6," Capuano says.

In addition, Cisco has enabled its full portfolio of routers to run dual stacks and support IPv4 and IPv6.

Capuano admits he doesn't know how many DSL or cable devices or mobile phones will have to be replaced, although obviously these are older models. He does think this is a service provider issue, not a consumer problem.

"The consumer shouldn't care -- they just want their applications and service," he says.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

acohn 12/5/2012 | 4:24:48 PM
re: Cisco to Service Providers: Get Moving on IPv6

well if it took like 20 years to adopt digital/hdtv, can't imagine ipv6 taking any less. lol

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:24:45 PM
re: Cisco to Service Providers: Get Moving on IPv6

Yeah, you can't lose betting how slowly a technology transition will go. In this case, however, the looming end of IPv4 addresses will impose a deadline that no one can change.

davekresse 12/5/2012 | 4:24:45 PM
re: Cisco to Service Providers: Get Moving on IPv6

I complement Cisco on the steps they are taking to prepare for this transition.  Many next generation network services - like Voice and Video - contain embedded IP addresses within their underlying protocols.  Applications, services, and infrastructure are going to need to be modified to ensure they can run over both IPv4 and IPv6.  To add to the challenge, a dual stack environment will exist and need to be supported for many years - this will not be a complete cut over.  

In addition to the work operators and vendors need to invest in development, choosing the right testing strategy is going to be essential.  A testing solution that allows an operator or vendor to leverage their existing IPv4 test assets unique to their application, service, or product is critical to ensuring a fast and successful transition.

There are testing solutions on the market today that can help, but operators and vendors need to be preparing today.  The quote at the end rings true.  Consumers don't care about this transition - they just want and expect their applications and services to work. 

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