Jun 20, 2011

World IPv6 Day: One Week Later

Ansley Kilgore

As we pass the one-week anniversary of World IPv6 Day, some highlights on our experiences:

  • v6 Day brought close to a two-fold increase in IPv6 traffic on the Voxel network, with a lot of that traffic remaining following its conclusion.  At the same time, IPv6 traffic volumes on our network remain extremely low, at well under 1% of our total Internet traffic.
  • In the days leading up to the 8th, we sharpened our on-call engineering rotation, as well as briefed all customer-facing staff of the day’s possible implications.  In the end, there were no issues of note; our v6d-related tickets were limited to customers wanting to join in the fun at the last minute (not a problem, thanks to the dual-stacked load balancers we stood up specifically for this), and a Verisign salesman attempting to sell us on Mafia-style DDoS “protection” (ironic in that the Verisign web site was one of few experiencing reachability issues on the 8th).  Not a single non-reachability issue was reported.
  • Though there were no non-reachability issues encountered, the day nonetheless provided for an excellent learning experience.  Working off feedback from our customers and providers, we applied various tweaks to our routing policies and provider preferences, along with load balancer configuration defaults, to optimize traffic flow.
  • Many participating customers chose to continue publishing DNS AAAA records — effectively making their sites reachable over IPv6 — indefinitely.  Those who didn’t left the door open to future participation in the near-term, pending additional analytics.

World IPv6 Day: One Week Later

These experiences were shared by our colleagues at large web properties also participating, almost identically.  All told, big content brought its “A game” on the 8th, failing to disappoint.

Not to be overshadowed, Internet Society (ISOC) did a great job rallying the troops, coordinating communications between participants, and increasing awareness among the general public.  Even PBS’s Gwen Ifill knew what was happening, thanks to the ISOC’s leadership:


So, where do we go from here?  I’d personally like to see repeat days, perhaps even an “IPv6 Week” or “IPv6 Month”, with increased participation from Internet access providers.

For the most part, here in the United States, it’s impossible to purchase IPv6-enabled Internet access from the major incumbents.  My Verizon Wireless Android phone enjoys dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 handset connectivity when in 4G LTE coverage areas (very cool and progressive in and of itself) — sadly tethering is limited to an IPv4 double NAT (really, guys?) — and that’s about it for options.

Comcast Cable leads the pack with its excellent technology trials and community involvement, however the percentage of actual households utilizing IPv6-capable Internet service is very small; they’re publishing exact statistics soon.  Unfortunately, the followers are few and far between, with no other cable modem providers announcing deployment plans with concrete dates.

Suspiciously absent from meaningful participation on the 8th was Verizon Telecom, who’d be well-served to follow the lead of their colleagues in Wireless.  What they lacked in participation, they made up for with a laundry list of everything that could possibly go wrong, in detail vivid enough to scare off even the largest v6 proponent.  I suppose that’s all one can do when FiOS — a next-generation ETHERNET based service, where you’d expect these things to be easy given a lack of legacy technology, combined with their colossal advantage of controlling the home gateway — has no v6 plans announced for 2011.  AT&T has been similarly quiet, other than to announce that IPv6 is coming to their next-generation UVerse technology over a hodge-podge of tunnels, and not speaking to the other half of their footprint stuck with older DSL.

Why does this all matter?  Here at Voxel, our focus is on ensuring the best possible Internet experience for our customers, both today and in the future.

As we run out of Internet addresses, carriers are preparing to position broadband subscribers behind provider-side (IPv4) NATs, termed “Carrier Grade” NATs, or “CGNs” for short.  I worry these devices might bring with them new performance bottlenecks and troubleshooting complexity for the operators and their users — and by extension, us.  In addition, CGNs will most assuredly break the “end-to-end” reachability required for some customer applications in use today, such as gaming and peer-to-peer streaming.


World IPv6 Day: One Week Later

Equally important is that our business is growing, and we continue to board new customers and applications requiring IP resources.  While we’ll try as hard as we can to always have IPv4 addresses available, even utilizing the secondary market and provider assignments where absolutely necessary, one must consider that the pool will be fully dry at some future point in time.  In a hypothetical world with no available v4 IPs, continuing to service our customers will require additional complexity, something which we’re beginning to model and test out today.  Required will be additional translation technologies hosted on our side, such as load-balancers, NAT64/DNS64, and VPNs to facilitate administrative access.

World IPv6 Day: One Week Later

In sum, IPv6 on both the hosting and access side is a key requirement to ensuring service continuity.  Just as we’ve helped countless customers enable their content and applications for IPv6, we look forward to heightened awareness and adaptation among our colleagues in the access business.

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Ansley Kilgore

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