”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.

Martin Levy Explains Hurricane Electric’s Success in a Tough Economy

This is part two in a series of interviews with Martin Levy, Director of IPv6 Strategy at Hurricane Electric

Hurricane Electric is one of those rare companies that have survived, and grown in the past two years. A private company, Hurricane Electric has become one of the largest Internet Service Providers in the world, and is a leader in IPv6 deployment. In this article Martin Levy shares a few ideas on how Hurricane Electric approaches their business and continued growth.

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Pacific-Tier: It’s been a really rough economy, and we’ve seen networks (Internet Service Provider networks) falling fairly rapidly over the last two years. How is it that Hurricane Electric continue to grow, continues to survive, and continues to expand your network presence?

Martin Levy on Internet Economics and SuccessMartin Levy: We’re very conservative, which is a total counter statement to being a technology advanced company. But let me explain.

Hurricane Electric is a private company. We are funded internally, we are funded by growth, and as much as the company is 15 years old we have grown steadily, we have grown conservatively over those years.

The beauty of the company is that we haven’t gone off and spent somebody else’s money and randomly done stuff with the hope it would succeed. Everything we’ve done, has been done with methodical care – quite conservatively, and done when we know that it will help with our revenue stream, and we will grow the company.

We did that with our growth into Europe, we did that with our growth into additional and larger data center space, we did that with our growth into Asia – projects that have been going on for about a year and a half, maybe longer.

All of that, based on the fact the company is private, and the company is dedicated to just doing things that have lacked in the industry, and not just doing things that are at a random level have meant that we have been able to survive the initial; “host.com era,” in the classic 2001, 2002, 2003 timeline.

But also the recession that we’ve had over the last year, year and a half, where we were set up to hunker down without any problem and didn’t really change much of our day-to-day operations.

We also are very lucky in the sense that we have a customer base, that quite frankly has always grown, and has always grown in its bandwidth needs. In the data center business there has been a requirement to add more customers, more space for every customer, more bandwidth for every customer.

In the wholesale IP word we have the same thing. Because as much as we’ve had a recession from a banking and from a Wall Street point of view, we’ve not had a recession in a bandwidth point of view. The requirements of our customers have been to grow bandwidth continuously, throughout that time, and that has been to our advantage. Here in the United States, and also in our global locations.

Pacific-Tier: How important is it for Hurricane to be a global company, rather than concentrating your efforts on growing your points of presence in North America? How important is it to become a global company today?

Martin Levy: That’s a great question!

I’ll push it back as a question, but answer it myself!

Is the Internet local or global? We find that connectivity has in nearly every situation, a global component. There is as much interest in the updates on somebody’s status on a Facebook or on a Twitter, or whatever social networking locally as well as globally.

The requirement, as we need to see it, for large amounts of connectivity, in Europe, in Asia, and the gateway cities within the United States, whether that be on the East Coast, the West Coast, or facing north or south, those bandwidth requirements have been forever increasing. And that has never been more so than the last couple of years where we’ve seen some amazing spikes (in traffic).

We as a company, because we run a global IP backbone, have always been in a great position to help service customers in those other geographies. It doesn’t mean that we ignore our backyard, the Silicon Valley, or the Los Angeles, or the New Yorks, or Washington D.C. areas – far from it.

But the reality is that as bandwidth prices for transport go down, we also see the requirement for larger and larger bandwidth to be pulled in to some of the cities around the globe, and because we have a global network we are ready to service them (networks in global locations served by Hurricane Electric).

Previous articles in this series:

  • Part 1 – “Martin Levy Discusses the Global Urgency to Deploy IPv6”

Martin Levy Discusses the Global Urgency to Deploy IPv6

I met Martin Levy for the first time in Honolulu at the Pacific Telecommunications Council ‘2007 conference. After several coffees at the Kalia Tower, and an hour or so discussions on data centers, networks, and IPv6, I knew I had found a true evangelist in the Internet industry. Several more conference coffees in different locations around the world, and I became one of his IPv6 disciples.

As a senior member of the Hurricane Electric team, Martin enthusiastically spreads the IPv6 word to locations around the world including Slovenia, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Taipei, Brussels, and the European Commission – in addition to acting as a consultant to IPv6 developers and global digital government policy groups.

An accomplished speaker and writer, Martin brings a unique talent effectively delivering IPv6 thought leadership and actual IPv6 network deployment experience to the Internet community.

Martin Levy IPv6 Dir of Strategy at Hurricane ElectricThis is part one of a Pacific-Tier Communications Thought Leadership series interview with Martin Levy, Director of IPv6 Strategy at Hurricane Electric. Hurricane Electric is a leading Internet backbone and colocation provider specializing in colocation, dedicated servers, direct Internet connections and web hosting.

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“Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the next-generation Internet Protocol version designated as the successor to IPv4, the first implementation used in the Internet that is still in dominant use today” (Wikipedia)

“With only about 10% of IPv4 address space remaining, organizations must adopt IPv6 to support applications that require ongoing availability of contiguous IP addresses.” (ARIN)

“Organizations relying on the Internet to conduct business have only a limited time to act and adapt to changing technology. Those that delay, run the risk their online services may become unavailable to a rapidly growing number of users.” (APNIC)

Pacific-Tier: Tell me a bit of the sense of urgency on (the Internet community) moving to IPv6, and what Hurricane is doing related to the topic?

Martin Levy: Urgency is a word that has been used now for many, many years when it comes to v6. But the reality is, that we have, for every years that has passed, gotten closer to where there are real limitations on the amount of new v4 (IPv4) space that can be added into the market place and added into the existing global Internet.

2010 really marks a time when we have less than two years of available space that can be allocated to the core registries, to the RIRs (regional Internet registries). And as this year and next year go by, we are going to start seeing rules that have never been seen on the global Internet. We are going to see people with requirements to substantiate their use of v4 space in ways that they have never done till this point.

They will see a requirement for documentation, for signatures, sometimes from corporate executives, officers of the company – at least in the US. This will be a whole new world.

If that doesn’t wake people up to the fact that the world is changing, it is unclear what will.

Pacific-Tier: What is Hurricane doing itself to help push this issue along?

Martin Levy: We have always been evangelizing v6, but we’ve been doing it in a way that the users are encouraged to implement v6. In our case “users” means our wholesale providers (Internet service or network providers) that are buying our existing v4 services.

So we have made it easy at the wholesale level to bring on IPv6 connectivity anywhere on our backbone – anywhere globally on our backbone. That, as well as going out into the community and talking about v6 has been a core effort we’ve brought to the table.

It can get better. In some cases we can help a customer understand just how easy it is now, as opposed to five years ago. There really isn’t, for anybody who had bought fairly new hardware any problem enabling v6. There is a set of golden rules to follow from a security point of view. From an operations measurement and monitoring point of view.

But in reality most people can enable v6 themselves and get their feet wet, with great ease. We have spent our time talking with people and convincing them of that fact, quite successfully.

Pacific-Tier: I hear a lot of companies talking about tunneling v6 through and existing v4 network. Is Hurricane running what we would call a “native v6 network” within your backbone?

Hurricane Electric Internet ServicesMartin Levy: Everything on our backbone is 100% native. The core network, all of the Internet peering ports, all of the customer ports, the connections into our data center customers are all what is called “dual-stacked.” In other words they all run native v6, and, if you want to use the term, native v4.

That means that every connection provided is provided as a pure v6 connection. Now, we also provide, because it is needed, “tunnel broker service.” This is a v6 tunneled over v4 service. We’ve been doing this for many years. And there are users, whether they are at home, on a broadband connection in this country or somewhere else in the world, whether they are a software developer working inside a company that needs a v6 connection for software testing… Or whether they are just a home enthusiast, or in some cases it could be a whole university in some foreign country that has no way to get a native v6 connection. They can use the tunnel broker service.

They can use the tunnel broker service with BGP for full routing if they need to, and connect up to the v6 global network though a tunnel connection. In some cases there is no other way to do it.

But the core of the network, every single POP (point of presence or locations), 26 or 28 of them around the world are all configured native v6.

Pacific-Tier: What is your feeling about how your end users, or your actual customers, are using IPv6 in their networks? Is it becoming a fairly mainstream enterprise protocol, or do you have a lot of work to do to teach or provide thought leadership in the market in that area?

Martin Levy: I won’t lie. There’s an awful lot of education that needs to be done, and there’s an awful lot of work that needs to be done – and in some cases even within wholesale or broadband networks. You can break it down into two or three different issues.

The first issue that touches any network is just their outside connectivity. Their core backbone, and links to the outside world, links into providers like ourselves (Hurricane Electric). Those have to be enabled for v6.

And because they are network entry points, that brings up the issue of network security right at the beginning of the day. The interesting thing is, network security for v6 is really identical to v4 – it’s just the syntax that changes.

The addresses are longer, and you have to use colons instead of dots in the addresses. But the theory is always the same. If I deny access to a particular service over v4, I would deny access over v6. The service could be something as simple as SNMP polling of your core router. It could be more complicated like an internal set of web servers.

Any filtering that can be done with v4 can be done with v6.

The second part that needs to be thought about is what part of your network needs to be first seen by the outside world, or in the v6 arena. And it boils down to simple service like DNS for converting names to numbers. Potentially, if you are an enterprise, inbound and outgoing email.

Obviously, your web site. If you are able to bring up your website as v6-enabled, if you are able to bring up certain web services as v6-enabled, you can take those off the list. But even that doesn’t hit the prime point, which broadband and wholesale buyers of IP transit need, and that is IPv6 connectivity to their end users.

In this area are cable MSO, DSL, or wireless network end user environment, they are going to work with all of the protocols and equipment needed to connect to their end customers, and potentially the education of the end customer.

And that is the part that still needs the most amount of work. But luckily for us at Hurricane Electric, we are a wholesale provider. So our issues are really in getting the first stage done, and potentially helping with the second stage. The third stage is left to the customer. And that (the third stage) is the hard part.

But from a wholesale point of view we get our part done, and we know that we can at least enable IPv6 to move and ensure the routing is as solid as it would be in the v4 world.

Pacific-Tier: So do you see new applications, and emerging technologies such as cloud computing, or global distributed cloud computing models that require a lot of addresses to support their VLANs and their internal process – do you see that helping enterprise adjust or have a better sense of urgency on how critical it is to start employing v6 in their networks?

Martin Levy: The story of IPv6 and cloud computing comes up on a regular basis, and it is a real, real requirement. It doesn’t seem to go away, and the two items (IPv6 and cloud computing) seem to be well-connected to each other.

But what’s more interesting as you talk to enterprises is you start hearing a story of “what are you going to do in a world that internally, the complexity of your internal network has started to push the bounds of how you would run an IPv4 network. Clashing private address space, stuff like that.

So we see even outside of cloud computing, where an enormous number of addresses are needed, that in complex enterprises or enterprise back office systems, we see benefits to the very large address spaces being given out. It may not be considered to be a killer application, but it definitely provides a solution far better than can exist in some legacy v4 environments.

Pacific-Tier: Do you have an opinion on the ability of companies such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, as they deploy their LTE and 4G networks. Will that serve as a further catalyst to force companies into the IPv6 world?

Martin Levy: I think the most pleasing part of that is that we are seeing a clear, solid understanding how and why IPv6 and IPv4 must be taken into account within the LTE or next generation wireless world. If you go back and look at very early documents on other wireless structure that have come into the marketplace, they were always very v4-centric.

This has now changed. Now it doesn’t mean that you and I are going to end up throwing away all our 3G, and in some cases 2G hardware, and be forced to go out and buy LTE or 4G hardware and magically get v6. The reality is the back office requirements for those wireless providers still have a lot of work that needs to be done.

Still, the end-user connectivity is being defined with v6 in mind. I have a lot more faith that as of today we’ll see a lot more items like that show up in the market place in a more seamless manner.

Keep in mind that we already see not every, and not so much the popular ones, but we do see certain smart phones in the marketplace that are v6-enabled and applications capable. They are v6 capable over their WiFi connections vs. their 3G connections. But at least it shows the base technology inside smart phones and smart phone products acknowledges why v6 is important.

People may not be using it very much, but that will change.

Pacific-Tier: Where does Hurricane fit in the big picture with IPv6 today? How do you rank with other networks in your category of size, scope, and scale of your IPv6 deployment vs. the rest of the network world?

Martin Levy: Over the last few years the amount of v6 traffic that we have carried has just grown enormously. It has grown by two different measures.

In actual raw bits moved around, while small compared to IPv4, we’re moving a heck of a lot more IPv6 traffic now than we were a year, or maybe two years ago.

The other measure the number of routes, the number of customers, the number of adjacencies, and the number of peering connections with other core backbones we have. We have taken those numbers and eclipsed every other provider, putting us in the number one position globally.

That is a testament to the network engineers, and the dedication the whole company has (to IPv6). And we’ve really done that because v6 is not a side project for us. V6 is not an “add on” to our existing v4 service. V6 is not something we do as a special. It means that every single connection, every customer, every peer, every interconnect on our network, is v4 and v6-enabled.

We keep each protocol on equal footing so we don’t have at any point the thinking that v6 is special. It is part of our DNA, and it is part of our base thinking for everything that we do on the network.

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