IP protocols/software

Taking the Fear Out of IPv6

IPv6 can strike fear into the hearts of many in the Internet world, and not just because it sounds like a communicable disease.

IPv6 is still a new protocol. (Get tested here!) Deploying it in the average enterprise requires a substantial investment in training, education and planning. It also requires changes to established IT practices and often affects certain business processes and controls. Depending on equipment and software choices, there are often costs associated with hardware and software upgrades. In addition, homegrown applications will likely require updates.

Although this transition may seem daunting, it has been done before. Experienced system administrators remember the transitions through ARCNET, DECNET, Vines, AppleTalk, Novell NetWare and NetBIOS (a.k.a. Windows Networking) -- and finally to Internet Protocol.

Two things can be learned from these previous transitions: First, the IPv6 transition is not the first protocol switch, and it's not nearly as radical as some that preceded it. Second, this is not the first time two protocols have had to run on the same network at the same time.

Yes, the tunnel of IPv6 transition will be a bit scary, but once at the other end a world of unprecedented freedom and new capabilities await. It's a whole new path, but the sky is blue and you will hear the birds singing.

IPv4 approaches a dead end
To those not paying attention, continuing to run IPv4 seems pretty safe and comfortable. It's a lot like steaming along the dark northern Atlantic Ocean at high speed in an "unsinkable" ship. It feels really good and nothing dangerous can be seen. An early arrival in New York is expected.

But to those paying attention, it's clear that the IPv4 Internet has been on life support for about 20 years. Network Address Translation (NAT) address sharing degraded the Internet's end-to-end addressing without permanently solving the IPv4 address depletion issue. Multiple layers of NAT could kick the can further down the road, at the cost of further degrading and complicating systems (such as VoIP) that rely on end-to-end addressing. Furthermore, these degraded capabilities will cost significantly more to implement and maintain, so ISPs will likely increase costs to subscribers who cling to IPv4.

To make things even worse, we're reaching a point where adding new IPv4 customers is going to become virtually impossible, causing IPv4-reachable sites to become a continuously smaller fraction of the Internet. Today, almost everything on the Internet is reachable over IPv4. In a few years, both IPv4 and IPv6 will be required for universal access.

When I look at the real costs, trade-offs and problems created by ignoring IPv6 and trying to keep IPv4 going for another decade or so, it pegs the needle on my fear meter.

Lots of IT professionals will happily tell a different story. Some will say that an enterprise won't need to deploy IPv6 if it has already been allocated more IPv4 addresses than it needs. Some will say that there's no need to migrate to IPv6 because there aren't enough IPv6-capable users (or services) to matter. These points have an aura of truth: however, they're misleading and mostly irrelevant.

If an enterprise has enough IPv4 addresses for the foreseeable future, it is only guaranteed to be able to talk to itself. An IPv4-only enterprise will not be able to reach services in the cloud that are accessible via IPv6 only (and that will happen).

It's true that most websites have not migrated to IPv6 yet. But this is in part because end users have not migrated -- creating a chicken-and-egg situation. If this cycle is not broken on the content-provider side, then some rather unfortunate long-term consequences for the Internet will arise. Service and content providers will continue to maintain hacked IPv4 implementations involving multiple layers of increasingly dysfunctional NAT, increasing the cost and complexity of Internet connectivity.

Content providers that regard the lack of IPv6-capable clients as a reason to avoid deploying IPv6 for their content are not only jeopardizing their own futures, they're also contributing to the lack of deployed IPv6 capable clients. Until a critical mass of content is available, ISPs must provide IPv4 services to as many of their clients as possible, even if it means degrading those services and increasing costs.

Eventually the costs will become unsustainable and ISPs will pass the costs along to end users, eventually pushing users to IPv6 clients. Unfortunately for content providers, once users leave, they rarely come back. Content providers must be ready for IPv6 before their customers are.

For now, the only non-fear-inducing bet is dual-stack.

— Owen DeLong, IPv6 Evangelist, Hurricane Electric

owendelong 9/9/2013 | 4:52:36 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now At the very least, the ones I know of in the US are: SPRINT PCS, AT&T Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Boost, Metro PCS, Clear, CREDO, Cricket, TracFone, Claro, and Net10.


Likely, there are many others as well. The only ones I know for sure are doing IPv6 are Verizon and Deutsche Telekom (aka T-Mobile).

owendelong 9/9/2013 | 4:48:51 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now I think users just want the internet to work. It is the responsibility of ISPs, Content Providers, and Product Manufacturers to recognize that a new protocol is necessary for that to happen and to provide products and services that incorporate that protocol in as seamless and functional a manner as possible.


Expecting a user to demand IPv6 is a lot like expecting consumers to demand Exhaust Gas Recirculation valves. If you know anything about emissions, then you understand that an EGR valve is a vital tool for reducing harm from car exhaust. If you're the average driver, you probably don't know what an EGR valve is or why it's important. That doesn't change the fact that your car has one and you didn't have to care about it in order for that change to occur.


If we do our jobs, IPv6 should be the same way. Unfortunately, so far, there's a large number of manufacturers (Yes, Samsung, Yamaha, Matsushita (JVC, Panasonic, Technics), Onkyo, LG, Zenith, etc. that means you), ISPs (Yes, SPRINT PCS, AT&T Mobile, Cox, Rogers, Shaw, this means you), and content providers (Yes, Amazon, Baidu, QQ, LinkedIn, Windows Live, Twitter, etc., that means you, too) that still have yet to offer up AAAA records or IPv6 support on their networks.

owendelong 8/19/2013 | 7:27:07 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now As time progresses (somewhere around 5 years from now), supporting IPv4 for residential customers is going to reach a cost where many ISPs will have to either roughly double the cost to the consumer (for an even further degraded service than what is avaialble now) or discontinue IPv4 support.

Many consumer electronics are not refreshed so frequently. For example, I tend to replace a television on about a 10-15 year life cycle. The last time I replaced an amp, it was more than 10 years old. I haven't yet replaced a Blu-Ray player and don't anticipate doing so any time soon. I tend to want to be close to the bleeding edge of many of these things, so I think I tend to refresh more frequently than many others.

If consumers want to buy consumer electronics today that will still work well in 5+ years, then they pretty much want to make sure that they are capable of adapting to the internet as it will be in those years.

If they wait until they become IPv6-only, two things are going to happen, neither of which is good for the consumer.

1. ISPs will be forced to maintain more and more costly Carrier Grade NAT (CGN) infrastructures which will inherently raise prices and degrade the user experience.

2. You'll have to replace all of your internet-enabled electronics suddenly when your ISP (or any of the service/content providers you care about) switches off IPv4.

Also, remember that it is likely 1-3 years between consumer demand and actual support in products, so the lack of demand today means a lack of support in 2016. Given that first versions tend to be ill-equipped for the real world, I'd say add another year to get reasonably reliable support puts us at 2017. Since we're talking about the shift away from IPv4 possibly coming as early as 2018, I don't think that's a lot of time to get consumer demand going at this point.


Carol Wilson 8/19/2013 | 3:42:49 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now What incentive do end-users have to demand IPv6 -- until, of course, there is a number of end-users who are IPv6 only. 
owendelong 8/19/2013 | 1:55:02 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now Dan,

It's becoming more common place.

I know that AT&T and SPRINT haven't figured out IPv6 for mobile yet. I'm pretty sure that Virgin and Metro are subject to the ways and whims of SPRINT since they are basically MVNOs on the SPRINT network.

It is becoming more common place, but there is still much work to be done.


I would actually argue that while the end-goal is to get all the users onto IPv6, we really need for two groups that are currently lagging to move forward. The first is content (Yes, Amazon, this means you!!). The good news is that a lot of content has moved forward and the results have been pretty good. (Facebook, Google/YouTube/Gmail/etc., Yahoo, Netflix, and many others).

Where the news is not so good (in fact, pretty dismal) is in the home entertainment or "Consumer Electronics" world. I have yet to find a single Amp, TV, Blu-Ray player, Game Console, DVR, etc. which has IPv6 support (Yes, Yamaha, TiVo, Sony, Matsushita (JVC/Panasonic/Technics), Kenwood, Pioneer, Samsung, etc., I'm talking about you here).

As a result, I think we unfortunately need to educate consumers about a part of the network which, if we were doing our jobs, would be entirely transparent and irrelevant to them. I say that this is necessary because it seems the consumer electronic companies are only going to start moving when they start getting enough support calls from consumers asking why they can't get IPv6 working on their device. Bottom line, support calls cost money. A lot of money compared to the cost of the average device. Generally, these manufacturers depend on getting less than 1 call from every 10+ consumers in order to make a profit.

As such, if we can get 1 in 50 consumers to call asking for IPv6, that's a huge economic pressure point.

sam masud 8/19/2013 | 1:53:05 PM
Re: Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now Yes, but v6 is about supporting a growing number of end points, so for v6 to be a success, it's really the users (enterprises, etc.) that really need to get behind the new protocol. At least that's where I see the problem lying...
DanJones 8/19/2013 | 9:22:46 AM
Which major mobile carriers don't have IPV6 now I know T-Mobile and Verizon are up and running on IPV6, is it becoming more commonplace now?
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