OPNET's New IPv6 Planning and Operations Module

OPNET recently released a new IPv6 Planning and Operations module with several facilities for facilitating IPv6 implementations. This module is an add-on to its IT Guru Network Planner and SP Guru Network Planner modeling applications. (The IT Guru and SP Guru are functionally identical with the exception that the Service Provider version can model MPLS.)

As you might expect, the IPv6 module adds IPv6 network modeling capabilities. But it also provides some interesting tools (OPNET calls them “Wizards”) that address specific IPv6 implementation challenges: The IPv6 Readiness Assessment Wizard and the IPv6 Migration Wizard.

I’ve written in past posts about the necessity of performing an inventory as an early step in IPv6 implementation planning: You can’t make a practical appraisal of the costs, timelines, and milestones of an implementation plan if you don’t understand what systems currently have sufficient IPv6 capabilities and what systems must be upgraded.

The IPv6 Readiness Assessment Wizard can reduce the inventory effort from weeks to minutes. It begins with the network model built by the IT or SP Guru, which can be either a theoretical model you create or a model of your actual IPv4 network, built from router/switch queries and other information provided to the modeler by management applications such as CiscoWorks or HP Openview. You then specify the IPv6 capabilities you are interested in, such as:

  • Dual-Stack Addressing
    • Stateless address autoconfiguration
    • DHCPv6
    • DHCPv6 prefix delegation
    • Anycast addresses
  • IPv6 Tunneling
    • Manually configured tunnels
    • 6to4
    • Native tunneling over MPLS LSPs (6PE)
    • GRE tunnels
    • ISATAP
  • Routing
    • OSPFv3
    • IS-IS IPv6 extensions
    • Multiprotocol BGP IPv6 address family
    • RIPng
  • QoS
    • Classification
    • Policing
    • Shaping
    • Marking
    • Queuing
    • WRED
  • Multicast
    • MLDv2
    • PIM-SM
    • PIM-SSM
    • Multiprotocol BGP IPv6 multicast address family
    • IPv6 BSR
    • IPv6 bidirectional BSR
  • Mobile IPv6
  • IPv6 Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANET)

Using the hardware and operating system releases in the network model and your specified IPv6 capabilities, the Wizard queries an extensive database and gives you reports on what devices and links are and are not IPv6 capable. The reports range from summary graphs to detailed link- and device-specific reports.

Figure 1 shows an example of the feature menu and a high-level graph summarizing device readiness.

The Readiness Assessment Wizard is not intended to perform extensive real-time device IPv6 compliance tests like TAHI, and its reports are only as accurate as individual vendors’ statements of the IPv6 capabilities of their software releases in the database. Therefore it is still wise to perform further IPv6 compliance testing in your lab as a part of your implementation project; but this tool certainly gives you everything you need to make reasonable projections at the planning stage.

Figure 2 shows a high-level report from the Migration Planner.

Another focus of IPv6 implementation planning must be an assessment of how IPv6 affects your existing network: What is the impact of IPv6 on configurations, link utilization, and traffic flows? Again using the baseline IPv4 model and the IPv6 capabilities you specify, the IPv6 Migration Wizard provides you with reports ranging from high-level summaries to device- and link-specific details. It can also give you before-and-after assessments of your network survivability.

Further, you can use the Wizard to refine your implementation strategy by selecting different portions of your network to migrate and observing the impact. By modeling a series of different implementation scenarios and sectional approaches, you can develop an implementation plan that minimizes the impact of IPv6 implementation on your production network – all without actually touching the network.

Figure 3 shows an example of the flow selection menu for incremental migration, and in Figure 4 you can see a before-and-after graph indicating how the introduction of IPv6 affects link utilization.

OPNET released the IPv6 Planning and Operations module only a month ago, so its too early to assess user experience. There is, however, predictably strong interest from US federal agencies working to meet the 2008 IPv6 mandate. And it can be expected that the module will sell well in the Asian markets; particularly Japan, South Korea, and China.

Service providers are also interested. I spoke to Mazen Khaddam, Principal Architect at Cox Communications, and Jason Weil, who is running Cox’s IPv6 implementation program. Cox is rolling out IPv6 primarily to meet the requirements of their US federal customers, such as the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). Like most service provider’s implementation plans, Cox’s is being run in phases: Transit first, management second, and end-user services last.

A longtime user of the OPNET SP Guru Network Planner, Cox has added the IPv6 module to run “what-if” scenarios and to make implementation decisions such as whether to run OSPFv3 or IS-IS, and evaluating the impacts of using 6PE versus dual stacks.

There are a few capabilities missing from the IPv6 module: MPLS layer 3 VPNs (6VPE) and IPv6 extensions for EIGRP are not there, but are on the roadmap and will be supported soon. NAT-PT and a few tunneling mechanisms such as Hexago’s tunnel broker and Microsoft’s Teredo are not supported and OPNET has no current plans to support them; whether or not these functions are supported in the future will probably be driven by requirements of OPNET’s customer base.

I found the IPv6 module, like the rest of the IT and SP Guru Network Planner application, to be impressive in its capabilities and surprisingly easy to use considering how much it does. After a little familiarization the menus are intuitive, and the Wizards guide the user through the more complicated setup and analysis workflows.

OPNET’s prices put it out of reach of most small network operators, but for large-scale IPv6 projects the ability of the IPv6 Planning and Operations module to reduce project risk can provide a good return on investment.

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