A Press Release is Not an IPv6 Network Strategy

by Jeff Loughridge

A strategy for enabling your network for IPv6 requires significant planning. The planned future state must be an IPv6-only network rather than dual stack. How do you get from an IPv4-only network to there? I’ll cover some broad themes, as the details are too many for a single post. I’ll also share my thoughts on what an IPv6 strategy is not.

Take the hypothetical conversation between two network engineer colleagues.

Engineer 1: What’s our strategy for IPv6?

Engineer 2: We posted a press release. Check it out on our media relations page.

Engineer 1: <Reads press release> Hmm. OK. I see that we’re going to provide our customers access the IPv6 Internet by end-of-year 2013. How are we going to do that?

Engineer 2: You know…I’m not sure who’s working on that.

A press release–or any other high-level assertions about IPv6 enablement– is not an IPv6 strategy. It a goal and only that. You can’t roll out a scalable, production-quality service without focusing on crucial aspects of the deployment. Some examples follow.

  • IPv6 addressing schemes
  • Address assignment mechanisms
  • Internal and 3rd party applications/services
  • Security
  • IP infrastructure tools and systems
  • Transition technologies
  • Remote access
  • End system and network IPv4/IPv6 protocol interaction
  • Routing protocol selection

The carriers write detailed network design documents for new services and infrastructure components. The design document is shared with all stakeholders and revised based on feedback. This practice should be adopted by enterprises and other entities that operate large IP networks. There is necessary complexity in IP networks that can’t be informally passed along in organizational memory. Experience tells us that writing documentation is time-consuming and that engineers don’t like doing it. I believe a formalized design document is an absolute requirement for network changes on the scale of IPv6 introduction.

If the IPv6 design document is thorough and communicated throughout the organization, you’ll be positioned to avoid issues such as a department continuing to invest in IPv4-only hosts, applications, and network infrastructure. The lack of last-minute surprises helps you meet your IPv6 goals and breaks your dependence on the rapidly depleting IPv4 space.

Get those IPv6 design documents written. When you have an actionable plan, then you can issue the press release.

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2 Comments to “A Press Release is Not an IPv6 Network Strategy”

  1. I entirely agree. I think that’s one of my biggest pains in regards to IPv6 adoption. People don’t seem to realize that you actually have to do some work to get it implemented correctly. Most people are _saying_ that they plan to support it, but they don’t actually have a plan.

    The best, although most difficult approach in my opinion is to just jump-in with both feet.

    In my case, I actually took the liberty to modify and release EVERY open-source application we use to support IPv6. Some have been more difficult to port and therefore _only_ run on IPv6, but most are dual-stack enabled.

    In our network i’m ensuring absolutely everything runs and communicates over IPv6. This has been quite a challenge as many tools we take for granted (ex: apt-get install) only resolve to IPv4 addresses. Take the Debian-Japan apt mirror, if you resolve its hostname you’ll see there’s only IPv4. How do we get updates then? Well we can run our own DNS servers, but do we need to do that for each service now? What a pain.

    Anyways, good IPv6 posts, keep it up! Thanks!

  2. Alex, thanks for your comments. I’m sure patching your applications for IPv6 was a lot of work.

    Your example of apt-get is a painful reminder of my attempts to get any linux distribution to install on an IPv6-only VM. Each one had some IPv4 dependency that prevented a successful installation.

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