IPv6 Is Not a "Special Feature"

I wrote in the previous post that many network executives resist IPv6 deployment because they cannot find a means to make it profitable. This is a misguided viewpoint, because IPv6 is an infrastructure issue, not an applications issue. There might be important applications in the future that only work with IPv6 (Mobile IPv6 holds a lot of promise here), but for now the case for IPv6 is one of network capabilities: The capability to continue growing when public IPv4 addresses are no longer available, and the capability to communicate with new IPv6 users.

Equipment vendors have a tendency to be misled down this path, too. A number of network products support IPv6 only as an add-on feature or require a purchased license to enable it.

The rationale among vendors is that they’ve sunk a great deal of development money into their IPv6 features and need to recoup the investment. This is just as much a wrong-headed perspective as the network operator who doesn’t want to make his network IPv6 capable unless it can be shown to generate revenue.

Any router manufacturer invests enormous amounts of engineering time and money in developing OSPF and BGP. Yet none of them would consider requiring their customers to purchase a license to enable those protocols; support of the basic IP routing protocols is something their customers expect to get when they buy a router.

Similarly, a vendor of network test gear would never charge their customers extra for features that test basic IPv4 capabilities, claiming that they need to justify their development costs. Those costs are built into the product price. Yet in evaluating router testers for a customer recently, I came across a vendor that wanted well over $100,000 for their IPv6 routing protocol test suite. Mind you, that’s not for the tester itself; that’s just for the IPv6 software.

I understand the need to make money where one can. Times are hard.

But IPv6 is not a “special feature” any more than it is an application differentiator. It is a standard part of IP; if you manufacture and sell a product that is IP capable, it should support both IPv4 and IPv6. Microsoft and Apple both certainly understand this, and include IPv6 as a standard part of their modern IP stacks.

Equipment vendors who charge for IPv6 capabilities where they do not charge for comparable IPv4 capabilities are doing more than throwing a speed bump in the way of industry progress. They are running the risk of appearing out of touch with their markets, and they’re setting themselves up for losing business to competitors who better understand what IPv6 means to their customers.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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