IPv6 evangelist, Yahoo!: “IPv6 is real, and is here.”

Jason Fesler, distinguished architect and IPv6 evangelist for Yahoo!

Jason Fesler, is a distinguished architect and IPv6 evangelist for Yahoo!. He will be appearing as a panel speaker on Day One of the Broadband World Forum 2012 in the Next Generation IP Networking section of the Service Delivery & Support track. Here, he talks about why IPv6 networking is important to the industry and how it will affect end users.

What were the big milestones for you in the last 12 months?

Our biggest recent milestones were participation in the World IPv6 Day, and then the World IPv6 Launch.  These events first gave proof that IPv6 causes no harm; and then turned IPv6 into the new “business as usual”. These events have been forcing functions, designed to get our core technology platforms capable of supporting both IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously (“dual stack”) and to pave the way for future adoption of IPv6 by our products.

Why is IPv6 important to the industry?

The single biggest argument for IPv6 today is “business continuity”. The internet that most people use today has nearly run out of unique numbers. Depending on the region you live in, this has already happened. To preserve the capabilities and value of the internet we enjoy today, we have to adopt the new protocol.

The alternative is increased dependence on address sharing—NAT at the ISP level. This second layer of NAT, on top of the end user’s first layer at the home, will significantly impact applications that expect end-to-end connectivity. Furthermore, NAT presents an interesting security issue. One of the last resorts for a service to protect itself from abusive behaviour is to block by the public IP address.  When this public IP address is shared by many residential users (through the use of ISP NAT), it means that the entire community behind that address will be blocked. This has implications for both high traffic web sites, as well more personal implications for financial sites. I personally would be upset if I could not reach my bank to make my mortgage payment, for example.

Is enough being done by ISPs to support IPv6 introduction?

Many ISPs are taking a leading role, and working hard to introduce IPv6 solutions to end users. Those participating in the World IPv6 Launch made a commitment to make new subscribers get IPv6 by default – without being asked. Many more are doing the same, only less publicly visible.  This transition to make IPv6 “business as usual” is crucial, as most end users don’t know (or care!) about the underlying protocol. The internet is just a basic service – like plumbing – and they depend on professionals like us to fix things.

That said, several ISPs are under the belief that they have enough IPv4 resources to continue as they are; or are planning on NAT as their long-term solution. NAT will perhaps buy time, but puts the ISP at a competitive disadvantage compared to service providers that can avoid it. Given the time it takes to make a graceful transition to IPv6, deferring to the last minute seems at best short sighted.   We will come to a point where new products and services will have difficulties obtaining usable IPv4 address space, and may have to face launching as IPv6 only. This may seem questionable today; but I believe this will happen fast enough to be a real concern. At that point, IPv4 only service providers will be at a competitive disadvantage.

Are there any potential issues around IPv6 that the industry is ignoring?

Perhaps not ignored, but not yet solved.  Getting the IPv6 infrastructure into place is in itself a big challenge—one that many parties have been working on for years and we’re seeing it come to fruition now. However, not all bits are ready. Many wireless providers have yet to solve mobile roaming charges when IPv6 is in use.  On the fixed line side we know many end customers buy home routers; they don’t upgrade those same routers without a compelling reason. This is why we will not see an overnight switch to IPv6; the legacy gear in people’s homes today. As customers look to upgrade or relocate services (from DSL to fibre, or from single-play to triple-play, there will be an opportunity for access providers to recommend updated wireless routers that support both protocols. The same opportunity exists for new subscribers.

How will the move to IPv6 affect end users?

If we do our jobs correctly, they won’t be affected at all. People want the internet—they don’t care about the actual protocols underneath. Just like when they phone a friend with a landline phone, or a VOIP phone, or a cell phone, they don’t care how it works—just that it does.

What are you hoping to get out of attending the Broadband World Forum 2012?

My attending the Forum is to help share our experiences preparing for the World IPv6 Launch, and what real-world impact it has had. IPv6 is real, and is here. Yahoo!, along with many access and content providers, have made commitments to see that IPv6 move forward.

The Broadband World Forum 2012 is taking place on the 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Click here now to register your interest.

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