For the last few Interop conferences in North America, I’ve been the Infrastructure track chair or co-chair. As such, it’s my job to put speakers on the platform who are addressing key issues in networking, data center operations, and anything else broadly falling under the category of infrastructure. Sometimes, I recommend sessions that aren’t likely to enjoy huge popularity, but are appropriate in the context of what should be important to the industry. IPv6 has been one of those topics.
First, a question. Do we need IPv6? The answer is yes. IPv4 address depletion is in its final stages. There are almost no more IPv4 address space to give out — 0.21 /8’s from ARIN as of this writing. RIPE, too, is nearly out. It’s true that carriers have been aggressively deploying IPv6, and companies like CloudFlare make it easy for your web site to be IPv6 accessible. But North American enterprises have not been deploying IPv6 all that much.
- When I ask vendors about IPv6 support in their products, the response is almost always that “customers aren’t asking for it.” I’m tired of that answer. Vendors should have IPv6 functionality available from the start, and not make a half-hearted attempt later to roll it in. There are times when a vendor needs to give customers what they need, not what they want. Some customers ask for dumb things or don’t know what they should be asking for.
- When vendors do support IPv6, there’s often an asterisk. Yes, IPv6 is supported.* (Sort of.) Full IPv6 support seems hard to come by in many products.
- Workarounds for the IPv4 shortage problem abound. NAT. CG-NAT. IPv6/IPv4 proxies. And now, as noticed at Interop, companies specializing in the IPv4 aftermarket. There are many organizations who have more IPv4 addresses than they need, and thus they are selling them off since IPv4 is still in demand, creating a market opportunity. This transfer still involves a RIR, as I understand it, but the point is that IPv4’s overly long life continues to be extended by those desperate to cling on as long as possible.
On the plus side, folks are waking up to the fact that there is genuinely an IPv6 need, and that IPv6 runs by default on common operating systems like Microsoft Windows. There was good interest in Interop IPv6 sessions by Ed Horley and Jeff Carrell. That said, the adoption problem remains one of time and priority. When network engineers have a long list of competing priorities, IPv6 will fall to the bottom of the pile.
When IPv6 becomes a business problem, and not a technical one, it will start seeing serious adoption in the enterprise. A lack of available IPv4 addresses and expensive aftermarket pricing might start driving North America towards broad IPv6 adoption. Finally.
At Interop, a few of us got together as a Tech Field Day delegation to riff on the IPv4 & IPv6 trends we noticed at the conference. Enjoy.