Apr 202012
Spend 30 minutes with IPv6 every Friday!

This morning I have very important news for you. I woke up in a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Discovered that my laptop was out of power and tried connecting it to the wall socket to get some energy to be able to write down this blog post. That’s when I suddenly realized the importance of standards. The Irish wall socket follows the UK standard, while the rest of Europe shares a common standard nowadays. Thus, no power for my laptop and no IPv6Friday blog post in the morning., Today, we will talk about the need for standards and how they are implemented in the marketplace. 

Standards are important, because most of the time it makes life easier and opens up for a broader market. The Internet Protocol did just that. It made it easier, and thus more cost-effective, to integrate a wide range of operating systems that previously all had their own proprietary network solution. IP is the foundation of the Internet and, as you know, has been diagnosed with not being able to cope with the growth. The IP we’re talking about is the good old IPv4, which is what most people mean when they say “IP” or “TCP/IP”. Well, no more.

RFC 6540 redefines IP to IPv4 AND IPv6

The IETF recently published RFC 6540 – IPv6 Support Required for All IP-Capable Nodes – which changes the definition of IP. According to the IETF, “IP” now means IPv4 AND IPv6. And they made sure there no quick fixes are allowed. The IPv6 support has to be on the same level as IPv4 – or better. The IPv6 stack should not in any way depend on IPv4 functionality, which means that it needs DNS, DHCP and the rest of the functions that we have in IPv4. This RFC is quite short, easy to read and to the point.

While IPv4 is expected to coexist on the Internet with IPv6
   for many years, a transition from IPv4 as the dominant Internet
   Protocol version towards IPv6 as the dominant Internet Protocol
   version will need to occur.  The sooner the majority of devices
   support IPv6, the less protracted this transition period will be.

A well-defined set of rules

The RFC defines a set of rules for customers, vendors and implementors of IP:

To ensure interoperability and flexibility, the best practices are as

   o  New IP implementations must support IPv6.

   o  Updates to current IP implementations should support IPv6.

   o  IPv6 support must be equivalent or better in quality and
      functionality when compared to IPv4 support in a new or updated IP

   o  New and updated IP networking implementations should support IPv4
      and IPv6 coexistence (dual-stack), but must not require IPv4 for
      proper and complete function.

   o  Implementers are encouraged to update existing hardware and
      software to enable IPv6 wherever technically feasible.


Now it’s up to all of us!

This document is of course important for everyone in the IETF that writes or updates standard documents. It’s no longer possible to propose an IETF solution that only works for IPv4. But will this change something in the marketplace? Not, unless we all follow it and put pressure on vendors.

  • Make sure that everyone in your organization understands this important change, especially the persons responsible for procurement
  • Refer to this RFC, which is an Internet Best Current Practise, when buying new software or equipment – or paying for upgrades
  • If your company is developing software solutions, make sure you have a plan on how to support IPv6 in a coming release, to stay IP-compatible

With that, I’ll leave you to explore and discuss. The IP standard has been changed by the standards body, the IETF. Now it’s up to all of us to make sure it becomes a de-facto standard that is followed by our vendors. It won’t happen without customer pressure.

The World IPv6 Launch is not far away and router vendors really need to understand this RFC and start working with IPv6. Only two vendors have joined the launch, so please help us put pressure on the rest of them! And go read RFC 6540 – it’s easy to read, not very technical in details and very short.