June 06, 2012

IPv6 Day, Not Another Y2K

Today, June 6 2012, is World IPv6 Day. It reminds me of another big event IT day, Y2K. If you were at a big company and particularly if you were in IT, that one probably stands out pretty clearly. Network vendors set up crisis management war rooms to monitor the situation as Y2K spread across timezones. IT teams were camped out in NOCs, poised for action. The world was set to end, airplanes were going to fall from the sky, the power grid was going to go down, and civilization itself was at risk. Breathless news anchors proclaimed possible TEOTWAWKI. The angst was palpable. In the end, however, it was pretty much a non-event.

IPv4 Address Exhaustion is different. While no airplanes will fall from the sky due to lack of an IP address, there is a real problem. Just like phone numbers, public, routable IP addresses must be unique. In 1981, 4.3 billion IP addresses probably seemed like a very reasonable number of addresses. By 2011, 4.3 billion was a confining restriction. With the last two address blocks being allocated on 31 January 2011, a theoretical problem became a very real one.

We have been both blessed and cursed by a workaround called NAT, Network Address Translation, which allows a large number of systems to hide behind a single public address. This has helped mitigate the impact of a sharply limited address space, but it has also encouraged foot-dragging. Some things, like HTTP, work pretty well over NAT. Other things, particularly things like instant messaging, which require realtime presence information, can have trouble traversing NAT. IPv6, with its virtually unlimited address space (3.4×1038  addresses), means that anything that needs a world routable address will have one and that NAT as a workaround for limited addresses will no longer be needed.

Another thing that has helped the lazy avoid the inevitable has been a growing (grey) market in IPv4 addresses. Recently Microsoft paid $7.5 million for 666,625 Nortel addresses. While APNIC and others may try to discourage the practice, they have not been able to stop it. Convenient in a way, but bad in others. Not only does it enable the postponement of the necessary, but it also may lead to some real routing challenges. Why not just avoid the pain by deploying IPv6?

With the vast address space, you get end-to-end connectivity, handy in a world of machine to machine communications. You also get address autoconfiguration, allowing IPv6 devices to communicate without needing a DHCP server to pass out addresses. With IPsec built in to the protocol, security even gets a boost.

Anyway, today, 6 June 2012, is World IPv6 Day. Extreme Networks is joining together with other organizations around the world to permanently enable IPv6 in our products and on our website. Members of our technical staff have worked with IPv6 since 1995. IPv6 capable Extreme Networks gear first shipped in July 2001 and all of our gear is IPv6 capable today.

extremenetworks.com is dualstack, reachable via IPv4 or IPv6. http://ipv6.extremenetworks.com is IPv6 only. We invite you to visit our website, preferably via IPv6 if you can. We also encourage you to deploy IPv6 in your network.

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Extreme Marketing Team

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