IPv6 revival

By Luke Tymowski, Systems Administrator, Calgary

There is somewhat of an IPv6 revival lately. Not that there is anything new to the technology itself. IPv6 was developed some 12 years ago by the IETF to mitigate the foreseeable IPv4 address exhaustion.

Surprisingly, instead of adopting IPv6, most North American institutions decided to use a kludge (NAT) to alleviate the IPv4 address exhaustion. Since all institutions already had solid IPv4 architecture in place, the path of least resistance prevailed. However, for up and coming economies where everything has to be done from scratch, IPv6 is still a very attractive option. Cybera's backbone has been fully IPv6 since 2005. Just like our IPv4 routed network, we also carry all IPv6 traffic for research institutions.  

Adoption issues have plagued the deployment of IPv6 in Canada, and if you already have an IPv4 address, there is really no big pay off to switch over to IPv6. For institutions considering a full campus deployment, several barriers can stand in the way. These mainly consist of legacy equipment (your basic switches and routers); firewalls, which may or may not support IPv6; IPv6 education/expertise for the whole IT team; monitoring tools; and lastly, finding and ISP that actually support IPv6.

In a concerted effort to help with this, Cybera and CANARIE are looking to put some honey in the pot for IPv6 institutions that would like to make the jump. Indeed, starting in the next few months, CANARIE will peer with a mix of Internet eXchange and direct links to IPv6 commercial peer. Hurricane Electric, Tata telecom (formerly Teleglobe), CANIX, TORIX and SIX are among those being considered. This will connect the research network directly to content providers such as Google, (yes, including YouTube, which by itself consumes a large part or every education institution's bandwidth), and will potentially divert large amounts of bandwidth for universities from paid ISP providers to free IPv6 connections with ORANs.

This is where the proverbial honey pot might help institutions to commit resources needed to adopt IPv6 in parallel with IPv4 on their campuses. In a nutshell, once that is in place, when a user request a web site from a web browser, DNS will by default try to return the IPv6 address, making the switch to IPv6 largely transparent for the user and provide some added redundancy.

During the next few months, I will send our member organizations an IPv6 readiness survey to know where they stand on the issue. Only a handful of simple questions that will in turn inform me on who is interested and potentially able to do a full IPv6 peering with Cybera and the CANARIE research network.

As they say: stay tuned.