Nibbles & Bits

IGF Blog Series – Hurdles to IPv6 Adoption (Part 2)

by | January 21, 2016

6connect’s CEO, Aaron Hughes, worked amongst IPv6 leaders for the past several months on creating the IGF 2015 Best Practices Forum on IPv6, a ~70 page document that was prepared for the International Governance Forum held in November in Brazil. In addition to spending several months preparing this important industry document, Hughes was a speaker in two panel sessions. This is part 2 of a 5 part series with critical information pulled from the Best Practices Forum. Part 1, Why Adopt IPv6?, can be found here.

Hurdles to IPv6 adoption should be taken into consideration when developing IPv6-related policies, or planning to deploy IPv6. Below are examples of hurdles provided during the BPF.

Managing network configuration

Supporting IPv6 in the network can increase the complexity of troubleshooting and maintenance processes. Existing devices, servers, and software that are IPv4-based need to be upgraded or replaced to be IPv6-compliant. While this can be done in stages, and often at little cost (due to increasing IPv6 availability in normal upgrade cycles), planning is required, particularly as most networks need to keep operating while undergoing upgrades.

Wholesalers providing IPv4-only bitstream services to retailers

In some cases, depending on the market, an access wholesaler might have the exclusive right to activate a fiber optic network for the purpose of providing bitstream access. In the event that the bitstream access provided only supports IPv4-based services, it is impossible for the retailer (the ISP the end customer has chosen) to provide IPv6. Even if a retailer is able to support IPv6, the wholesale provider might effectively block that ISP’s IPv6 deployment by only offering them a product that supports IPv4.

At the same time, if the customer’s Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) is capable of “tunneling,” it would be possible to offer the customer an IPv6 service via a tunneling technique, over the IPv4 bitstream service. The increase in complexity, however, could make the service offering not financially feasible.

Hardware and software support

Development of IPv6 in equipment incurs a cost on a vendor. In general, a vendor has many competing claims on its resources, in addition to IPv6 support. To justify prioritizing IPv6 support over other features requires a business case (e.g., customer demand) that shows an acceptable return on investment in an acceptable timeframe. Lack of perceived demand and return on investment are a hurdle for vendors to prioritize IPv6 development. As a result, number of business-level vendors continue to treat IPv6 as a “feature request” in lieu of a baseline.

To assist vendors, customers should make their IPv6 requirements as specific as possible for the given use case.

Slow adoption by content and application providers

Websites and applications may require updating in order to support IPv6. Older sites may also have hard-coded assumptions about IP addresses and, thus, will not work with IPv6. “Removing these assumptions and preventing any new systems from making the same mistake is a key best practice.” Similarly, CDN and webhosting providers have a valuable role to play by enabling IPv6 by default in the services they provide.

It took some time before operating systems and software were made to be IPv6 compatible, but such support now exists. Now, IPv6 oftentimes cannot be disabled on these platforms. Apple, for example, now requires all iOS 9 applications sold via the App Store to support IPv6.”

Training people

Engineering, operations, and customer support staff will need to be trained on IPv6. On a global scale, the required expertise to develop and maintain stable, efficient, and secure IPv6 services and applications is in relatively short supply. The dearth of human resources and capacity with regards to IPv6 is a significant impediment to deployment globally, particularly in developing countries. As one contributor noted, IPv6 training is a key area if the rate of IPv6 deployment is to be accelerated. Not only is the training of engineers important but the training of awareness of upcoming engineers is important. Creating an environment that encourages coordination between different actors in the Internet value chain is the key to supporting the adoption of IPv6 within the local community.

Stay tuned for parts three through five of the series. You can find part 1, Why Adopt IPv6, here.

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