Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mission: Possible

You've probably seen our mission statement: "Promoting the adoption of IPv6 for the preservation of an open Internet." Mission statements seem to be a dime a dozen these days, so let's look at just how important this work really is.

At the All Things Open conference last year, one of the speakers talked of "dorm room ready software". It's wonderful that this plethora of software has become available, increasing the speed of prototyping. However, the only reason this is still possible is because those dorm rooms still have global IP addresses. The computer sitting on the desk can still serve content to the world. As we run out of IPv4 addresses, more and more of us will be closed off behind NATs beyond our control. Poor college students can ill afford hosting services that still have those scarce IPv4 addresses. This creates another barrier to innovation unless we do something.

In my years of advocating for IPv6 deployment, I have encountered a lot of "wait-and-see". This strikes me as odd since many of the folk I've talked to are trying to be innovators in their space. "Well, there's nothing I can really do" or "That's someone else's problem" are common refrains. The Internet has come to be seen as that thing you plug into and the bits come forth. As I wrote in my blog post for ARIN two years ago: "It's not commodity. It's community." Every one of us who has benefited from the Internet is now in a position to help it grow to provide even more.

So, what can we do?
  • Change the conversation:
    • Legacy IP: When referring to IPv4, call it "Legacy IP". "IPv6: It's not new. It's now."
    • Expect IPv6: Go into operational network conversations expecting IPv6 to be there. So often we've assumed that getting IPv6 will be an uphill battle. It may yet still be in some places, but by acting as though having IPv6 is perfectly normal, others around you will start to pick up that vibe.
    • Pave the way: In business relationships, it's often easy to fall back into a demanding tone of "Where's my IPv6 already?!" Instead, ask questions like "What are your blockers?" and "What can I do to help make that happen?"
  • Talk to ISPs: Thankfully it's been awhile since I've heard "Nobody is asking for IPv6", but we still need to let ISPs know we're out here and ready for it. If your ISP does not yet have IPv6 and has no timeline for deployment, you may want to shop around for one that is a little more technologically saavy.
  • Talk to equipment and service vendors: Obviously you won't get very far if your ISP can pipe IPv6 in to you only to smack into a router or firewall that can't pass the traffic. Talk to your vendors about where they are in the process so you can make your plans as well. Perhaps your site can be a beta test.
  • Make IPv6 a purchasing requirement: If you need to buy new gear for your operations, make certain that whomever you are buying from knows that it must support IPv6. "Vote with your wallet", as they say. Example: US DoD’s DREN Will Only Buy Products With An IPv6 Website
  • Test software: You do have your test lab up after all these years, right? Now it's time to see how your applications behave when they encounter IPv6 on the wire, and especially IPv6-only networks.
As Geoff Huston put it at NANOG 64, we've talked about IPv6 for years and nothing happened. The time has come. Just do it!

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