Interop
Commentary
1/17/2014
12:00 AM
Edward Horley
Edward Horley
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IPv6 Decision Time

Carriers and enterprises can try to squeeze as much life out of IPv4 as possible, or make an orderly transition to IPv6 now. Which will you choose?

I build Internet infrastructure and data center networks in my day job. Then I go home and use IPv6.

This has been my status for many years (ever since I started working on IPv6 way back in 2005). By extension this has also been the status of IPv6. IPv6 has had a long, painful journey toward mainstream adoption, and I still think it has a long way to go. But I can tell you this: if you are not paying attention to IPv6, you are going to hurt your company and your career.

Granted, I am an IPv6 zealot, evangelist, or cheerleader (whatever label you want to use) but I think I have a very solid argument. You can disagree about timelines but you can’t ignore IPv6 anymore. Why?

Because we’ve come to the end of IPv4 address space. IANA ran out of IPv4 in 2011, APNIC and RIPE effectively ran out in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and ARIN is due to run out in 2014. This isn’t an end-of-the-world event (IPocalypse) because the service providers that get the IPv4 addresses from these organizations still have an inventory of IPv4 to use. The real question is, what happens when they do run out of IPv4?

I see two possible paths forward. Neither are painless, but one is more painful and costly than the other.

The first path is for service providers to deploy IPv4 conservation methods. They reclaim unused IPv4 address space and implement Carrier Grade NAT (CGN) solutions to hold onto as much public IPv4 address space for as long as possible. At best, this might buy us a few more years, but the pain will be extremely high.

Even if carriers implement an extremely aggressive IPv4 addressing recovery plan (mandating 99% utilization of public IPv4 allocation) there still aren’t enough IPv4 addresses to accommodate the growing demand for them. Geoff Houston tracks available IPv4 address space, and has fascinating stats here.

IPv4 conservation methods will be expensive for the carriers, and the cost will get passed down to customers, including enterprises, medium and small businesses, and consumers. IPv4 and CGN become very expensive because the carriers will have to deploy hardware that performs NAT on behalf of their customers.

Customers end up with shared IPv4 addresses. This means things like peer-to-peer applications, Web sites that use a lot of sessions (Google Maps comes to mind) and VPNs become much more complicated to run, if they work at all. That is a not a solution that works for the growth of the Internet and doesn’t meet the needs of enterprise customers.

And IPv4 conservation and CGN has limits, because eventually you simply run out of IPv4 addresses. You can only NAT so many times before it becomes impossible to support. Then what?

The second path is a transition. It requires an investment in training people, testing applications, and moving a lot of resources from a legacy networking protocol. But you can do this over time--it doesn’t have to happen overnight.

Will it be painful and cost money? Yes. But organizations that choose the first path will have to move to IPv6 at some point anyway. It doesn’t make sense to pay twice.

So how do enterprises avoid unnecessary pain? You invest now in IPv6 and choose service providers that give you a native IPv6 option. That way your company plan can decide the timeline to deploy IPv6. Get in the driver’s seat and be in control of your Internet experience.

What’s your IPv6 strategy? I can help you answer that question at my Interop session “Getting Serious About IPv6: Go Big Or Go Home.”

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bhartsfield
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bhartsfield,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2014 | 11:40:40 AM
Re: In For Some Pain
I think you are correct that most are going to wait which will be to their detriment.  IPv6 is very different and needs to be learned.  Organizations can either take the time and learn and deploy it on their timetable or be forced to do it on somebody else's timetable before they are ready.  The smart companies will get ahead of the game and plan for it. 
byaru1
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byaru1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/19/2014 | 4:54:58 AM
Re: In For Some Pain
I agree that it's an issue of when. I have seen many techies swear by NAT, and believe this can take them a few decades on, negating the business need for IPv6. Even then, NAT has its limitations anyway and eventually, demand will outgrow NAT's technical capacity. And IPv6 will be the only way.
byaru1
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byaru1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/19/2014 | 4:54:55 AM
Re: In For Some Pain
I agree that it's an issue of when. I have seen many techies swear by NAT, and believe this can take them a few decades on, negating the business need for IPv6. Even then, NAT has its limitations anyway and eventually, demand will outgrow NAT's technical capacity. And IPv6 will be the only way.
BruceS493
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BruceS493,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/17/2014 | 7:58:48 PM
No cynicism here
@Lorna, not sure what you are cynical about... That the ISPs Ed refers to will follow his advice or that they are cynical about IPv6.  In this day and age you'll be hard pressed to find any networking or IT professional who does not believe IPv6 is going to happen - the question is when.  So if we take "when" out the question then 100% will make the decision articulated in the article.

@ACM, I don't think you are being cynical as much as realistic.  Only a very small percentage of ISPs are going to get in front of this issue.  The rest will face it at the absolute last minute because of the "change is hard" truism spiced with the "this is going to take resources away from revenue generating work" and the "we don't want to spend money on anything that doesn't have a quantifiable ROI" truisms.  

So don't be cynical, IPv6 is on its way as evident by the 100,000 members of the gogoNET community where, by definition, 100% have plans to run IPv6 in the foreseeable future
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 11:50:03 AM
Not to be cynical ...
... but we've been hearing this for years. Meanwhile, network admins know IPv4 and see no pressing need to learn v6. It's seen as "keep the lights on" tech, and IT figures carriers, CSPs, and vendors will eventually figure out a way to make everything roses and unicorns.

The last time InformationWeek surveyed readers was in mid-2012 (report is here). We got 681 respondents. However, 38% had no plans to run IPv6 in the foreseeable future, down from 39% of 632 respondents in June 2011. Just 5% said they already ran IPv6 in most of their networks, up from 4%.

Even if you figure adoption rates doubled - heck, tripled - that's still dismal. Really big companies have done it. SMBs are just moving to cloud and sidestepping the problem that way. Some midsize companies will get crunched, hire MSPs with IPv6 specialists, and be done.

The business side, if asked, remembers the to-do about Y2K and asks, why is this different? What should the CIO say?
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
1/17/2014 | 11:39:29 AM
In For Some Pain
My cynical take is that most organizations are going to wait until the last minute. Change is hard, and as long as there are workarounds that keep the status quo in place, we'll stick with the status quo until we can't.
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