IPv6 roots planted on the net
Another small step towards the next generation
Monday marks a red-letter day for the internet, with the introduction of services that allow IPv6-based IP addresses to translated into domain names and vice versa.
The change comes as net governance organisation IANA adds AAAA records for the IPv6 addresses of six of the 13 root name servers, making it possible for two internet hosts to find each other without using the old IPv4 protocol. Similar changes involving only the Japan (.jp) and Korea (.kr) top level domains were made some years ago.
IPv6 is designed to replace the current Internet Protocol IPv4, which has a maximum address space for 4.3bn, which is starting to run out (perhaps by as early as 2010).
Some operators have worked around this limitation by using network address translation (NAT). NAT is fine for client/server-based Internet applications but limits the deployment of innovative network applications and services where every device needs a unique IP address.
As well as resolving the looming number shortage IPv6 boasts a number of other advantages including simplifying routing aggregation and address autoconfiguration. The protocol also had advantages in terms of mobility or security, such as integrated encryption capability.
The change over to IPv6 has been proceeding slowly for a decade or so. In fairness it's a big change. Support for the protocol has been introduced in operating systems and in networking hardware. For example, Cisco introduced IPv6 support on Cisco IOS and switches in 2001. Apple Mac OS X supported IPv6 since 2006, but full baked-in support in Windows didn't really arrive until Vista.
Service providers also need to make changes to their infrastructure in preparation for the wider use of the protocol. Claranet, one of the few UK internet providers to provide IPv6 capabilities to its customers, said that although market demand for IPv6 services is yet to build, service providers still need to think ahead about the next generation protocol.
"Many ISPs haven't implemented IPv6 for a very simple reason - customers haven't asked for it yet," said Dave Freedman, Claranet's group network manager. "It is only now, with IPv4 exhaustion just around the corner, that many organisations are beginning to take this issue seriously.
"Internet address space will start running out in two years' time unless ISPs adopt the new version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, across their networks. Although modern computers, servers, routers and other online devices are able to use IPv6, many ISPs have yet to implement the system. Meanwhile, the UK Government is failing to take the lead in preparing the country for IPv4 address exhaustion." ®
>>> one with massive amounts of NAT/PAT, and one with IPv6. The first works today and gives the user full connectivity to the whole Internet. The second gives the user nothing.
Except the first does NOT work. NAT breaks many things and the only reason many people don't realise it is that there are so many things going on in the background to "work around" the problems it causes.
I do some work with VOIP at work, and the hassles (and inneficiencies) caused by having NAT is unbelievable. IPv6 will allow each device to have a truly globally unique and routable address, so instantly many of the problems will just disappear.
IPv6 only "gives the user nothing" because people keep clinging on and throwing spanners in it's works because they are too thick to realise how broken NAT is. Don't forget that it isn't too many years since you could have said "IP gives the user nothing" - after all, what's wrong with the closed walled gardens of the likes of AOl and Compuserve ?
This announcement is but a small step. We need to be pushing for people to be implementing it - if done as part of the regular technology updates that vendors are doing then it really needn't cost much at all. But as long as people keep refusing to deploy it or ask for it, then it will be slow coming. But when it does come, people will be wondering why it took so long !
IPv6 is damage - the market will route around it
>> "I think IPV6 is destined to join OSI in the network junkyard."
> Aww don't talk about the OSI model like that or I will cry.
He's talking about the OSI protocol stack - i.e. CLNP - not the OSI 7-layer model, which is a useful way of thinking about any sort of network. The US government mandated OSI in all government network purchases (as it is mandating IPv6 today). Look what good that did.
Some people I know and respect in the Internet industry are resigned to a rollout of IPv6. A typical comment is:
"most of us are ipv6 haters, but we're also pragmatic. ipv6 may suck caterpillar snot, but we have no alternative. so get over it."
I am still in the camp which believes it won't happen. Right now we have two alternative universes ahead: one with massive amounts of NAT/PAT, and one with IPv6. The first works today and gives the user full connectivity to the whole Internet. The second gives the user nothing.
One problem is that deploying dual-stack IPv4 + IPv6 (whether it's in your own network, or in your ISP's network) doesn't deliver any incremental benefit to the deployer. "The Internet" is IPv4, and you could reach that already. Nothing worthwhile is IPv6 only. No major content provider is going to put up IPv6-only services; it would be commercial suicide. And if someone did put up a massive IPv6 free porn server, all that will happen is that people will build IPv4-to-IPv6 proxies, perhaps adding a few banner ads at the same time.
Even if your ISP's network is running IPv6, and your home network is running IPv6, a more insiduous problem is that all your *applications* need to be rewritten to use it too. You might argue "patched" rather than "rewritten", but there are substantial changes: (a) resolver APIs are different; (b) applications may get a choice of IPv6 and IPv4 addresses, and have to try one and fallback to the other; (c) IPv6 addresses contain colons, but many applications use "x.x.x.x:port" as a syntax; (d) user interfaces may need to display both forms of address. There are others.
Consider all that software you've bought. All those on-line games which communicate using IPv4. All those legacy Windows NT 3.51 servers still running out there. Until you can remove or update every single networked *application* you have, then you will need dual-stack IPv6/IPv4; and as long as you have IPv4 in your stack, you have no need for IPv6.
Of course, dual stack IPv4/IPv6 *does* open up lots of new possibilities for virus propagation and network intrusion, since you will have double the number of firewall policies which need to be checked.
(Maybe IPv6 will find a niche as an RFC1918 replacement in some organisations; IPv6 inside the firewall, IPv4 outside. But for most people, I think RFC1918 is good enough as it is)
P.S. The most ludicrous thing is, IPv6 doesn't really solve the address depletion problem either. Several ISPs have already obtained /19 allocations of IPv6 addresses, e.g. France Telecom. Since the first 3 bits of the address are fixed, this means that France Telecom by itself has already obtained 1/65536th of the total IPv6 address space.
Re: IPV4 exhausted in now + two years
Originally, the self-named "IP-Bigots" proffered a work-around(NAT) for a truly global address space that could have been provided by OSI. That has had it's day and the original unresolved issue has returned to the surface. Time to deal with it properly.