January 16, 2011

Are you ready for IPv6 yet ?

If I say internet is running out of IPs, you might respond with "so whats new?". Whether you like it or not, this time its for real. While IPv4/8 blocks might be gone by the end of this year, it doesn't mean IPv6 trasition needs to happen right away. Fortunately, unlike the Y2K problem, we have a lot of tools and means to make this transition less painful by making it happen over an extended period of time.

Most of the larger organizations have been testing IPv6 for years. And thanks to Apple, Microsoft, linux developers and other industry leaders , the latest versions of the most popular operating systems come preconfigured to work with IPv6.

Whats missing, unfortunately, is the human element of this transition. Training the core network operators on IPv6 related issues isn't enough. Nor is it enough for all the softwares to support it. Every developer, engineer and users on all the 7 layers of the OSI stack has to understand it well enough to be able to troubleshoot real life problems just like how they deal with IPv4. Setting up wifi routers, for example, was a challenge for most end users... asking them to transition IPv6 related issues, in my opinion, would be as challenging, if not more.

Similarly online service operators have to figure out if they have all the tools available to provide realiable service over this new protocol. Traffic monitoring, Routing, Dashboarding, Security auditing, etc are some of the roles and responsibilities which may require retooling/retraining, and unless there is a significant amount of traffic, some of the operational issues may never show up. On June 8th 2011 few major organizations (including Google, Yahoo , Akamai and Limelight Networks) are organizing a "World IPv6 day". The Goal is that these organizations will run IPv6 version of their services for a full 24 hour period to observe how well they hold up.

Google is one of the very few companies which already has a few services running on IPv6 since 2008. Here are some more details from Google's blog
Google has been supporting IPv6 since early 2008, when we first began offering search over IPv6. Since then we’ve brought IPv6 support to YouTube and have been helping ISPs enableGoogle over IPv6 by default for their users.

On World IPv6 Day, we’ll be taking the next big step. Together with major web companies such as Facebook and Yahoo!, we will enable IPv6 on our main websites for 24 hours. This is a crucial phase in the transition, because while IPv6 is widely deployed in many networks, it’s never been used at such a large scale before. We hope that by working together with a common focus, we can help the industry prepare for the new protocol, find and resolve any unexpected issues, and pave the way for global deployment.

The good news is that Internet users don’t need to do anything special to prepare for World IPv6 Day. Our current measurements suggest that the vast majority (99.95%) of users will be unaffected. However, in rare cases, users may experience connectivity problems, often due to misconfigured or misbehaving home network devices. Over the coming months we will be working with application developers, operating system vendors and network device manufacturers to further minimize the impact and provide testing tools and advice for users.
Are you ready for IPv6 ?

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