”Insert the Tip Into the Buckle…” – an IPv6 Analogy

How many times have travelers been annoyed to hear the sanctimonious words of flight attendants reminding us how to use a seat belt? Rather than a simple “please fasten your seat belt,” the FAA and airlines insist on giving a detailed example of how to insert the tip into the seatbelt latch and pull the excess fabric to tighten the belt.

Fasten your IPv6 Seat BeltApparently there are still people in the world who have never fastened a seat belt in their lives, and need instruction on how to operate the belt. In California we are bombarded daily with “Click it or Ticket” billboards and radio campaigns reminding us the “police are on the lookout” for those who are not wearing seatbelts, talking on cell phones while driving, texting while driving, and driving after consuming massive amounts of drugs or alcohol.

Everybody knows right from wrong, and what is a violation. However the message is still thrown in the face of every person hitting the roads or commercial airlines as if it is a revelation.

“IPv4 is Facing Exhaustion – Move to IPv6,” repeat message

OK, the same message has been pushed forth into the Internet community for more than 10 years. Everybody who has been through a basic indoctrination of the internet knows that this IPv6-thingy is important, will impact our lives, and is not going to fade away any time soon.

And just like the message on wearing seatbelts and not texting while driving, most of the Internet community still has not accepted the fact if they violate the law (or ignore the message of IPv4 exhaustion), they will either get a professional ticket, or at a worst case go sailing through their Internet windshield (“windscreen” for any Englanders in the audience) and end up in a bloody connectivity pulp.

NANOG 49 is getting ready to kick off their summer meeting in San Francisco, has a whopping 3 named sessions out of around 40 dedicated to the IPv6 topic. One is the obligatory Google presentation reminding everybody how smart they are, and the other two are fairly important topics giving an IPv6 adoption update from Renesys, and a discussion from Comcast on driving IPv6 into the home through the cable TV network.

Of course Hurricane Electric and the patron saint of IPv6 evangelism, Martin Levy, will be hanging around the halls providing thought leadership. Of note, Hurricane Electric is one of the few companies actually engaged in bringing the IPv6 message to the public, with one kind of cool tool called their IPv6 Certification process. This is a semi-serious, semi-fun Pre-IPv6 101 course intended to stimulate users to think more about IPv6 and accept the undeniable fact it is an important part of our future.

But the NANOG Crowd is Not the Audience

NANOG (the North American Network Operators Group) meets three times a year. In the early days, much like Internet Society meetings, it was a place for engineers and thought leaders to indulge in a fellowship of mindshare and development. There is still a glimmer of cooperation and desire for many of the old timers to lead masses through complicated development of the Internet and Internet deployments, however much like the “Inet” conferences of the past, it is now spoken more in terms of parties and sales opportunities than creating the next generation of Internet.

Sure, somebody will probably pull the plug on IPv4 wireless access at some point during the conference to show not only how clever they are, but also that Microsoft XP still does not eloquently handle IPv6 on demand – however the message is not necessarily getting to the people who need to know how to fasten their IPv6 seatbelt.

Those networks, and people at NANOG representing those networks, who have not already adopted IPv6 will soon succumb to natural selection. American companies such as Verizon have quietly rebuilt their networks to accommodate IPv6, and in fact are wiring everything in their network to further accommodate providing an IPv6 address to everything they touch. Power companies are implementing IPv6 in the smart grid architectures being deployed – and eventually everything down to your refrigerator will be IPv6-enabled. Some smart people are out there.

So…

The IPv6 thought leadership audience has to be the remaining IT managers in every enterprise in the United States (and of course around the rest of the world…), application developers, all the internet access network providers – basically everybody in the Internet “food chain” up to the end user.

No, I do not want my 80 year old mother being responsible for understanding IPv6 address allocation and management. I want the Internet and Internet applications to be just as transparent to her in the future as it is today. She wants to see my Yorkie over Skype without understanding the network infrastructure bringing her the image – and most of the user world deserves the same insulation from the ones and zeros of network technology.

The 500 people attending a NANOG are a very small audience, and an audience that is just as callous to the topic as I am to an airline safety demonstration, and will not be the audience getting the best use of IPv6 presentations and thought leadership.

IPv4 Depletion is Just as Devastating as the Gulf Oil Spill

ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, and the group responsible for managing IPv4 address space in North America, continues to remind us:

“With less than 10% of IPv4 address space remaining, organizations must adopt IPv6 to support applications that require ongoing availability of contiguous IP addresses. Internet Protocol defines how computers communicate over a network. IP version 4 (IPv4), the currently prevalent version, contains just over four billion unique IP addresses. IPv6 is a newer numbering system that provides a much larger address pool than IPv4, among other features.”

10% is a very small number.

As the IPv4 address space is further depleted, and if companies and organizations have never prepared their networks for IPv6, the result for American companies will not be pretty. Unable to collaborate on an application level with their peers around the world (yes, as you might expect, those pesky Europeans and Asians are doing everything possible to take a leadership role in front of the Americans with IPv6 – or maybe they are just more fearful of the potential impact of running short on IPv4 address space), American companies will suffer.

All manufacturing machinery will be network-enabled (yes, with IPv6 addresses), ERP, CRM, OSS, BSS – basically everything we build and sell stuff with, requires IPv6.

Good luck Martin Levy. Americans need you to continue spreading the word. Not only blasting it through a loudspeaker, but in the creative manner provided by Hurricane Electric’s IPv6 Academy and Certification process. Fun, but serious.

Us IT guys have a lot of work to do in the next couple years. IPv6, building the 4th Utility, developing cloud exchanges, developing greener data centers. Yes, it is a good time for Information and Communications Technology professionals.

A Swift Kick to the IPv6 Backside

The institutional horror stories continue, the old Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) address space is nearly gone, and if we do not transition to IPv6 with its nearly unlimited address space the Internet will grind to a halt.

Call to Action for IPv6A recent survey in Europe by the European Commission concludes that even in technology-progressive European countries “few companies are prepared for the switch from the current naming protocol, IPv4, to the new regime (protocol), IPv6.” ARIN (the US-based Internet Registry) agrees, reminding us that “with less than 15% of IPv4 address space remaining, ARIN is now compelled to advise the Internet community that migration to IPv6 is necessary for any applications that require ongoing availability of contiguous IP number resources.”

OK, so what the heck? Why aren’t we listening to those who understand the sense of urgency to migrate to IPv6, and get moving towards establishing a solid migration plan? Are the vendors ignoring the problem, reticent in providing IPv6 support in either application software or hardware, and preventing us from adopting IPv6? Are we just comfortable in our use of IPv4, network address translation/NAT, and are information technology professionals simply afraid to make a stand with management to start making the move?

Most mainstream software providers appear to be making the effort to go to IPv6. Microsoft has IPv6 as an inherent part of Windows and new Windows applications, Apple – ditto. Google engineers Lorenzo Colitti and Erik Kline recently received the Itojun Award from the Internet Society for “contributions to the development and deployment of IPv6.”

All major switching, routing, and server hardware companies are producing operating systems which include IPv6 compliance. Even cloud computing vendors such as 3tera are providing native IPv6 support within their platform and infrastructure as a service support.

What I Want from IPv6

I want everything from IPv6. Everything that has an electronic, communications, mobility, or interface should be addressable. I love the idea the California Highway Patrol can work with a company such as On Star to shut down a stolen car on the freeway before the driver kills himself or an innocent motorist. I love the idea I can work with an electrical utility to provide smart GRID technology to my entire home electrical system and not only reduce my bill, but also lower my carbon footprint. I love the idea I can control nearly anything I own or manage through a smart phone handset.

The IPv6 address space is large enough that we will have more than sufficient means to address everything we want – while smart people start working on IPv10 or whatever is needed for a couple generations down the road. So they can extend IPv10 to the rest of the galaxy.

Of course, unless we move forward and accept the temporary pain of moving to IPv6, none of this is likely to happen outside of some private implementations such as Verizon Wireless’ LTE network. Verizon is forcing the IPv6 issue with handset and device vendors by demanding their “…device shall support IPv6. The device may support IPv4. IPv6 and IPv4 support shall be per the 3GPP Release 8 Specifications (March 2009)” Kudos to Verizon for taking a stand on IPv6.

I further encourage moving my identity to an IPv6 address. Who needs a social security number, =social insurance number, or other identity when I can have my own personal IPv6 address? No identity fraud, as it can be linked to my DNA or other funky unique security code. My IP address, with my DNA and fingerprint, and I have the basic elements of a base for all other communications and identifications. Or I will become a borg.

But I would like to log into my home, and have heat turned on 5 minutes from arrival, the oven warming, favorite TV dinner selected for cooking, and even my 2 liter bottle of diet soda positioned for easy removal. My television set was remotely programmed, and the MP3 player auto-filled with music and other stuff from its docking station to give me something to listen to during my evening run along the beach or Wildwood Canyon.

Every device for my personal life that has a pulse can have an IPv6 address, controllable by me for whatever reason I choose. No IPv6 address for my jog though, as I want to de-couple some things important to life.

Who Cares About IPv6?

Martin Levy, from Hurricane Electric (a global Internet service and network provider based in Fremont, California), is a tireless evangelist for IPv6. A member of nearly every IPv6 working group (real working groups, not social working groups!), Martin travels the globe teaching, chiding, and inspiring networks to make the move. Martin recently recorded an interview with the European Internet Registry/RIPE where he explains His position on IPv6, his company’s approach to IPv6, and reminding the Internet community of the risks of not making the move to IPv6.

Martin strongly advises ” If you’re getting connectivity in a data center as a transit over an international connection, as a cross connect inside a telecom hotel, if you are an enterprise, IPv6 (deployment) should just be a tick mark…”

Martin travels the world in his quest to inform, and encourage those who do accept their responsibilities and urgencies embracing IPv6, such as at a recent conference in Slovenia, where Martin congratulated the Internet networking and content community by stating “Slovenia’s IPv6 initiative has been very successful and is becoming a blue-print for IPv6 initiatives in other countries worldwide.”

Internode, a large Internet network provider in Australia, has joined the movement towards IPv6. Partially because it is the right thing to do, partially because it is nearly impossible to get additional IPv4 address space from the Asian Internet registry, APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Center).

“Our objective is to ensure that Internode has the most experience of any Australian broadband provider with the operation and support of native IPv6,” Internode managing director Simon Hackett said in a statement. “By the time IPv6 becomes a necessary part of connecting new users to the Internet, Internode will offer the very best ‘production’ IPv6 service available in Australia. At that point, for all customers, IPv6 will ‘just work’.” (Network World, 6 Nov 09)

Our Call to Action

Every blog entry is supposed to include a pithy call to action. In this case the call to action is real. We need to adopt IPv6. Excuses will not bring our global Internet-connected and Internet-enabled world together, and will not enable our next generation of network users to fully execute on the promise of exploiting life in the “matrix.”

IT Managers – you need to get off your backsides, and learn, learn, learn, everything you can about Ipv6. It is mission-critical. Then you need to brief your management – the CFOs, CTOs, CEOs, CXOs, and let them know the urgency of re-stacking your organization to accommodate and drive Ipv6.

Networks – If you are an Internet network provider, and you do not support Ipv6, please get out of the business. With all due respect, you are the problem.

Content providers, application service providers, SaaS providers, equipment vendors, and everybody else hanging an Internet shingle on your door. Ditto – if you are not building IPv6 support into your product, you are the problem. Make it easy for the IT managers, individuals, and future generations by taking Verizon’s approach. “If you do not include IPv6 support in your product, we will not use it.”

What is your IPv6 message?

John Savageau, Long Beach

The US Government Re-Engages with IPv6

On May 20th the Office of the US President released a new planning guide for US Government agency adoption of the Internet Protocol, version 6 (IPv6). As the world’s largest IT user, once the US Government finally starts moving ahead on a project, the rest of the world will finally need to take some serious notice.

IPv4 addresses are the machine language which tells Internet-connected applications how to find each other throughout the global network of networks. Humans are familiar with names such as http://www.yahoo.com, however Internet applications and routing devices would see the same thing as 209.131.36.158.

The problem is that Internet Protocol, version 4 (IPv4) address space is nearly exhausted, with less than 15% of available address space remaining (of 4,294,967,296 total available IPv4 addresses). Some experts, such as Paul Wilson (Dir Asia-Pacific Network Information Center) believe IPv4 addresses will start to dry up as soon as soon as June 2011.

The need to adopt IPv6 is becoming acute. In North America Internet address space is managed by the American Registry for Internet Numbering (ARIN). In May 2007 ARIN published a resolution which included the dire warning:

“WHEREAS, ongoing community access to Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) numbering resources cannot be assured indefinitely; and,

BE IT RESOLVED, that this Board of Trustees hereby advises the Internet community that migration to IPv6 numbering resources is necessary for any applications which require ongoing availability from ARIN of contiguous IP numbering resources; and,

BE IT ORDERED, that this Board of Trustees hereby directs ARIN staff to take any and all measures necessary to assure veracity of applications to ARIN for IPv4 numbering resources (American Registry for Internet Numbering)”

Until now the US Government, although they have touted the need to adopt IPv6, has lagged the commercial community in actual deployment of IPv6 within government networks and applications. This follows the Office of Management and Budget’s directive (M-05-22) to all government agencies to “prove IPv6 capability through core network infrastructure testing by June 30, 2008.”

The US Government also recognizes lagging IPv6 deployment puts us behind other government initiatives in China (China Next Generation Internet/CNGI) and the European Commission’s i2010 project, which is driving all European countries to implement IPv6 into networks and applications by the end of 2010.

The benefits of IPv6 are fairly well known and documented, including features such as:

  • Greatly increased address space (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 total IPv6 addresses available, or 2128)
  • Better security
  • Mobility
  • And lots of other great features including interoperability and integration into nearly any device that can be connected to a network

 If the US Government is serious about pushing through their IPv6 initiative, many people will benefit, including consultants, equipment vendors, and software engineers, as most of the government IT architecture will need to be rebuilt. This is a good thing, as the rebuild will no doubt drive further innovation within the American IT community, and this will find its way into both the academic and commercial world, as the world’s largest IT user forces the community to re-engineer.

 John Savageau, Long Beach

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