What's actually going to happen tomorrow? Who are these IPV6 users? And what could possibly go wrong?
The buzz about World IPV6 Day is likely to reach a crescendo today in preparation for the event tomorrow. Here are answers to the five biggest questions service provider readers are likely to have about the event.
So what is actually going to happen tomorrow?
First a quick status update. As Connected Planet has reported, the central repository of IPV4 addresses ran out several months ago. Regional repositories still have addresses, but before too long, those addresses will run out and service providers will have to begin assigning IPV6 addresses, which cannot communicate directly with devices that are designed or configured only to communicate using IPV4.
The people that have the most at risk are web site operators, whose sites would not be reachable from IPV6 addresses if they do not prepare themselves to communicate using IPV6. The major web site operators have upgraded their servers and other infrastructure to support IPV6 and have obtained IPV6-capable Internet connectivity from their service providers—typically using a dual stack approach, which can be thought of as IPV6 and IPV4 traffic running side-by-side.
As Timothy Winters, senior manager for the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Labority told Connected Planet in an interview, some web operators’ IPV6 infrastructure has been reachable for some time via a special URL.
What will happen tomorrow, Winters explained, is that web site operators will be “turning on records for IPV6,” essentially telling Internet routers that when end users connects to their site, they will have the ability to receive traffic from either the IPV4 or IPV6 endpoints, depending how their own equipment is configured and assuming all of the network elements between the two endpoints also have the ability to support both protocols. The end user’s equipment will choose between the two types of connectivity, and if it is configured for IPV6, that’s how it will aim to connect.
Who are the IPV6 users?
Although service providers have not begun routinely assigning IPV6 addresses to end users yet, there are some out there. Several service providers, including Comcast in the U.S. and a French network operator, have issued substantial numbers of the IPV6 addresses, noted Owen DeLong, IPV6 evangelist, for Hurricane Electric, which was one of the first service providers to deploy IPV6 throughout its network.
In addition, major web site operators have issued IPV6 addresses on a test basis with the intention of using them in network testing tomorrow, commented Anthony Christie, chief technology and information officer for Global Crossing, another carrier that adopted IPV6 early on.
Undoubtedly there also are some do-it-yourself techno-geeks out there who have obtained IPV6 addresses, updated their equipment and connections, and are gearing up to do their own testing.
What could possibly go wrong?
As DeLong explained, there are three possible scenarios involving anyone connecting to a web site that is participating in World IPV6 Day.
Users that only have IPV4 connectivity, he said, should not notice anything different. Users that have fully working IPV6, he said, “will be celebrating.”
The third scenario involves people who “have partial or broken” IPV6 capability, De Long said. “Their software thinks they have IPV6 but they don’t,” he explained.
The service providers who offer Internet connectivity to those users should expect phone calls saying the web site isn’t loading.
One possible problem is that the end user’s equipment does not support IPV6 or hasn’t been configured properly to support it. Another possibility is that a setting in the end user’s equipment was accidentally set to use IPV6 when the customer did not intend it to. These callers actually may think they are using IPV4.
How should service providers respond to customer problems?
De Long said some service providers may simply tell callers with problems to shut off their IPV6 preferences, rather than attempting to troubleshoot the problem.
But Winters suggested an easy way that service providers can help with the troubleshooting process. He advised them to have the customer use the TestIPv6.com web site operated by the Internet Society, the chief organizer of World IPV6 Day, which should be able to tell them where the problem is occurring.
Not surprisingly, service providers say they don’t expect to learn of many problems with their own connections—either at the web site operator end or on the end-user side.
End users with IPV6 addresses often are connecting using tunneling through IPV4 and “for the most part, those with tunnels actually have them working,” De Long said.
If Global Crossing’s experience is typical, web site operators may not have much to worry about either. The carrier “turned on” IPV6 connectivity to its web site on May 31. Since then, IPV6 connections have represented about 2% of total visitors to the site but, according to Christie “No one has said they can’t get to the site.” To confirm that IPV6 users have successfully reached the site using IPV6, Global Crossing tomorrow plans to automatically display an icon to those users congratulating them on their successful IPV6 connection.
Although some of Global Crossing’s web site operator customers are planning to participate in World IPV6 Day, Christie said he was not aware of whether the Global Crossing connections would be part of the tests. Often web site operators use multiple service providers for connectivity—and potentially some site operators may not use all of those service providers to support IPV6 connections on IPV6 Day.
In addition to determining whether IPV6 users are able to reach their sites, web site operators also will be conducting a variety of operational tests, with the goal of determining the impact of IPV6 on firewalls, traffic balancers and the like.
What happens after World IPV6 Day is over?
World IPV6 Day is scheduled to last for only one day. How soon web site operators opt to “turn on” IPV6 permanently will depend on how many problems they encounter tomorrow.