IT pros blast Google over Android’s refusal to play nice with IPv6

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Two trains made of fiber, copper and code are on a collision course, as the widespread popularity of Android devices and the general move to IPv6 has put some businesses in a tough position, thanks to Android’s lack of support for a central component in the newer standard.

DHCPv6 is an outgrowth of the DHCP protocol used in the older IPv4 standard – it’s an acronym for “dynamic host configuration protocol,” and is a key building block of network management. Nevertheless, Google’s wildly popular Android devices – which accounted for 78% of all smartphones shipped worldwide in the first quarter of this year – don’t support DHCPv6 for address assignment.

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That makes for an uncomfortable contrast with Windows, OS X, iOS, and many of the largest Linux distributions, which all support DHCPv6.

Google developer and noted IPv6 authority Lorenzo Colliti offers several reasons for the lack of DHCPv6 implementation, including the argument that it would break legacy apps that rely on IPv4 and force developers to adopt IPv6 network address translation (with negative app performance consequences).

“The problem I see is that stateful DHCPv6 address assignment imposes these disadvantages on users, but doesn't actually seem to provide any *advantages* to users,” he wrote.

That hasn’t convinced the critics, however. In a lengthy and acrimonious bug tracker thread, IT pros slammed Google for failing to support the de facto industry standard.

“Pardon me for being overly blunt, but choosing my IPv6-related deployment options for my network(s) isn't your damn job,” wrote one user.

DHCPv6 is so important, in fact, that some companies have been advised to bar Android devices that can’t use the system from corporate networks by their legal departments – more than one university network operator said that legal requirements for identifying the sources of traffic, including the DMCA, made DHCPv6 crucially important.

“We are thinking to prohibit Android because we cannot fulfill the legal requirements with reasonable effort,” one such user stated.

Others already have definite plans to do so. “As a WiFi network operator, I'm going to deploy in such a way to cover my largest user base. Right now, that means DHCPv6, and no Android support,” said another user.

That won’t do, according to IDC program director for mobile phones Will Stofega.

“If we’re living in this BYOD world … that can be problematic, because the whole idea besides the money-saving thing is that the end-user is asking for this. By forfeiting [DHCPv6 support], I think Android and Google are causing some trouble in the near-term,” Stofega said.

Support for alternatives like Recursive DNS Server (RDNSS) has only been available on Android since the release of Version 5.0, or Lollipop – but this isn’t OK with the IT crowd, who argue that an IPv6 implementation without DHCPv6 support is incomplete.

According to Stofega, many large enterprises have already begun IPv6 rollouts, which makes the issue even more serious.

“You’ve done a lot of work to implement this and then the biggest … operating system has declined to support it,” he told Network World. “It’s a big, big problem.”

Stofega, however, remains upbeat for the long term.

“My personal opinion is that they’ll eventually figure out the best way to go about it,” he said. “As everyone says, the real money is in the enterprise.”

But despite Google’s recent emphasis on the business market, with the release of Android and Google Apps for Work, the company seems to be at loggerheads with a number of potential customers at the moment.

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