IPv6, Is it finally time?

Mike Stone, CIO & Principal Architect

Welcome to the House of Brick weblog. To kick things off, here’s a summary of a presentation I did 9 years ago regarding IPv6. I was advocating that it was time for us all to push forward in adopting it. At that time the specification was already five years old. IPv4 was twenty years old and showing signs of age. IPv6 offers improvements in IP distribution, routing performance, subnets and security. If it was time in 2000, it is doubly more so now. What amazes me is that in 2009 we are still dragging our feet. Some popular applications such as Oracle Application Server still don’t play well with IPv6. For that reason, IPv6 actually has to be disabled on some servers.

Today, large portions of the Internet backbone use IPv6. Our routers and DNS servers have been IPv6 capable for years, but very few of our data centers have made the conversion yet. In 1995 when the protocol was first drafted, the urgency was that we were running out of a limited resource, IP addresses. Subnetting and Network Address Translation (NAT) took much of the heat off. IPv6 also has significant performance improvements, but increases in hardware have masked the problem for IPv4.

However, I think the main reason we’re not seeing IPv6 in our data centers yet is because we understand NAT and like being hidden in our own little fish bowls. Using IPv6 suddenly introduces globally routable IP addresses. The spec allows for 1,600 IP addresses per square meter of earth. Security managers are not confident that they will still be protected to the same degree, and because NAT and hardware improvements took the pressure off, we’re just not motivated to make the switch.

The good news is that IPv4 can be completely and automatically encapsulated in IPv6 packets. So, we can safely begin migrating our data centers to IPv6 and as often as we encounter problematic apps, we can leave their servers on the old IPv4 network until the vendors catch up. Right, Oracle?

We invite you to share your insights and experience with IPv6.

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