World IPv6 Day is Complete. Did Anyone Notice?

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Last week saw the completion of the world’s largest IPv6 interoperability test: World IPv6 Day. Led by the Internet Consortium and supported by hundreds of service providers, content providers, and hardware manufacturers, World IPv6 day was meant to test the ability of the Internet to support a seamless migration to IPv6.

According to numerous published reports, the test appears to have gone off fairly well with no major glitches, which is great news considering there was speculation that DNS issues would potentially block some IPv4 users from reaching web sites once site operators enabled IPv6.

Still, this test is pretty small, only representing a small fraction of Internet users and web sites. But, perhaps the most important benefit of the test is that it not only raised awareness of the need for an alternative to IPv4, but it demonstrated that v6 can run without disrupting existing v4 users.

As I’ve noted in the past, despite its flaws IPv6 represents the only viable alternative for dealing with IPv4 address depletion. The IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) handed out its last blocks of IPv4 addresses earlier this year. Regional authorities still have anywhere from a 1 to 3-year supply. And while there’s growing pressure to allow sales of extra IPv4 space, IANA continues to resist allowing such a market to develop for fear that wealthy entities will buy up large amounts of space, shutting out smaller organizations.

Fortunately, momentum to move to IPv6 is growing, with service providers including AT&T, Comcast, NTT, and Verizon growing their service offerings while large content providers such as Google continue to push forward with IPv6 support. Still, the issues I’ve highlighted in the past remain. While IPv6 still represents an extremely small percentage of overall traffic, providers are still struggling with Internet routing table issues as a result of the rapid growth in the number of routes to manage, as well as how to interface IPv4 and IPv6 networks to ensure that customers on IPv4 can reach IPv6 and vice versa. We see a variety of different approaches out there, from dual-stack networks that run both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time, to tunneling approaches (IPv4 inside of IPv6 or vice-versa). We also see the potential of carrier-grade NAT, which allows providers to segment IPv4 and v6 networks from each other to reduce route table complexity, but adds the potential for not only additional latency, but challenges in getting applications across a NAT. Some also fear that carrier-grade NAT could serve as an obstacle to Internet innovation – what if the next “Skype,” for example, can’t traverse CGN? Or, what happens if service providers restrict competing services (e.g., Netflix) across their NATs?

On the enterprise side interest in IPv6 is growing. But I still am not aware of any client who is actively deploying v6. Still, a growing number of IT leaders participating in our research say they are actively looking at how to deal with v6. Our advice is typically to plan for supporting v6 access to your public facing servers, while mandating v6 support in everything you buy (network equipment, management tools, acceleration platforms, etc.).

Those who have started IPv6 tests are generally pursuing a dual-stack approach based on running v4 and v6 in unison, with edge gateways to enable v4 to v6 interoperability. And even with a looming address shortage, we still don’t see a justification for wholesale enterprise cut-over to v6. Even if one were to want to get out ahead and transition to v6, they will find a lack of support for all v4 applications, management platforms, security devices, and infrastructure. It will still take time for IPv6 support to extend everywhere, but hopefully thanks to the awareness raised by World IPv6 Day, that time is shrinking.

The bottom line remains the same as it was the last time I discussed IPv6 in this solution center: Get up to speed on IPv6. Talk to your service providers (wired/wireless) about their IPv6 plans, especially how they are addressing v4/v6 interworking and route-table scalability. Evaluate your own public facing services to ensure that they are reachable from v4 and v6, and make v6 support a requirement for all future application and network infrastructure purchases.

Convergence of Another Kind

Convergence means different things to different people within IT. Most typically you hear it refer to voice/data on the same network, or voice/video/data, or even as we cover in this solution center, convergence of wireline and wireless infrastructure. Now, Avistar comes along with another definition—convergence of UC and virtualization, an initiative recently highlighted as well by companies including Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, and Siemens.

Recently Avistar introduced “C3 Integrator,” a suite of solutions delivering UC applications, such as video conferencing, in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. The challenge in mating VDI and UC comes from the need to localize voice/video encapsulation to minimize delay, bandwidth, and server resource nodes; a difficult challenge when using a thin-client rather than localized software or hardware. Mitel too embraced virtualized UC through its expanded partnership with VMware to virtualize UC applications in the data center.

However Avistar’s approach, like that of Cisco, focuses on the desktop. Avistar’s solution (coupled with integrated products from partners Logitech and HP) demonstrates that both VDI and UC vendors are increasingly developing solutions to enable coexistence of UC and VDI. Fifty percent of organizations are now using desktop virtualization, up from 22 percent in 2010, while roughly half of all companies are using or planning to deploy desktop video by 2011. Bottom line: an increasing number of IT architects need to converge virtualization and UC planning to ensure success and avoid conflict.

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