Notes from the Global IPv6 Summit in China

I’m in Beijing for the China IPv6 Summit; this is the eighth year in a row that the organizers have invited me to speak at the event.

I did a tutorial yesterday on IPv6 readiness assessment methodologies, and a speech on IPv6 and network mobility at the associated Mobile Internet Forum. As I write this I’m in the audience waiting for my next speech, on creating a workable IPv6 transition plan.

And while I am always pleased to support this event as a speaker, I get more from it than I contribute. As one of the largest annual IPv6 events in the world, it is one of my key resources for getting updates on what is happening in the industry both in China and around the globe.

I’ll update you on what I learn in the various meetings I have scheduled between now and the end of the week.

Right now Tony Hain from Cisco is presenting; I heard him give the same speech last week at the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit, (you can find Tony’s presentation here), but this is a good talk and its worth hearing several times. What he is discussing is how the stages of grief apply to the inevitable advent of IPv6. Those five stages of grief are:

1.     Denial: This can’t be happening!

2.     Anger: This is so unfair! Why didn’t anyone tell me IPv6 was coming!

3.     Bargaining: Maybe I can retire before the network needs to be upgraded.

4.     Depression: This just sucks.

5.     Acceptance: We can handle this, its just going to take some work.

Being an advocate of IPv6 for years, I’ve dealt with a very large number of network operators who were in denial: No matter how many statistics they were shown about IPv4 allocation rates and the increasingly accurate projections about just when the pool of available IPv4 addresses will run dry, they either would cling to older, less accurate studies rather than looking at newer studies, or they would simply deny that a problem is coming.

Most knowledgeable networkers are beyond denial now. That’s not to say you can’t still find articles by authors that are still in deep denial. Just last week fellow Cisco Subnet blogger Michael Morris pointed me to an article by a particularly clueless individual that began with the simple statement, “IPv6 is dead, and everyone knows it.” The article went on to make some claims that directly contradict the current realities of the IP networking industry. Attending events like this IPv6 Summit in China, listening to presentation after presentation about implementation efforts all over the world, or the recent NANOG meetings in which serious network operators were sharing lessons learned in their IPv6 deployments, I’m mystified that there are still people who are presumably in touch with the larger networking industry and yet are in denial about the realities of the current IP addressing problems and the necessity of IPv6 to solve those problems.

While widely available evidence and realities have pushed most networkers beyond the denial stage, anger is still common and understandable. This is especially true at the executive level. I met with an engineering VP at a large carrier just last week, and mention of IPv6 brought a grimace. Its necessity for business survival is understood, but its implementation is nevertheless viewed as a big headache with no tangible financial returns. I can’t really argue with that; making big network changes just to keep the network going certainly isn’t attractive.

Then there’s negotiation. Networks have been working just fine behind NATs, we can just stacking everything up behind them, can’t we? There’s still an unused supply of IPv4 addresses out there, and an emerging trading market will keep the supply going for quite a few more years, won’t it?

Sorry, no.

Networkers who spend to much time in the depression stage tend to not get much done and hence move quickly through it to acceptance, rolling up sleeves, probably grumbling the whole time, but nonetheless getting busy tackling the hard problems of getting their networks ready for IPv6 as smoothly and as transparently to their users as possible.

I’ve got meetings later this afternoon and later this week with representatives of various research and development groups here in China; I’ll report back to you what I learn.

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