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Monday, 18 August 2014

Why IPv6 shall not be fully in use even in the next 10 years

By Sam Agona

Last week in a UbiquitiMikroTik training organized by Inveneo SF in Nairobi, I had the utmost privilege of working with a South African trainer called  Hannes Willemse who among so many issues that he discussed, pointed out that it would take some time to have IPv6 deployed largely. In my silence I entirely agreed with him.
The impending shortage of address space (availability) was recognized by 1992 as a serious limiting factor to the continued usage of the Internet run on IPv4. And as of 2011 February, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) had allocated the IPv4 prefixes 39/8 and 106/8 to the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Registry (APNIC).
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) by 1994 begun the design and development of a suite of protocols and standards which turned out to be  Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), as a worthy mechanism to phase out IPv4 and act supplant to the ever growing number of internet users over the years. With the explosion of sorts in the number and range of IP capable devices that have been and are still being released in the market and the usage of these by an increasingly technology passionate global population. The new protocol does effectively support the ever-expanding Internet usage and functionality, and also convincingly addresses security concerns.
 Banner at one of the IPv6 conferences. Photo by Sarah Kiden
IPv6 has been in operation in major networks such as AARNET (in Australia), Abilene (Internet2 – in the US), ERNET (in India), CSTNet2 & CERNET2 (in China), Gigabit European Academic Network (GEANT) (in Europe), JGN2 & WIDE (in Japan), KREONET2 (in Korea), RedCLARA (in Latin America), RUNet & FREEnet (in Russia), and TANET2 & TWAREN (in Taiwan) and a few more world wide.
Just like Hannes expressed himself, I equally think and believe, by 2023, we shall still be greatly using IPv4 addressing scheme due to the following reasons;
  • Lack of Push factor; major organizations and companies that implement huge networks with lots of nodes on their network still do not see a reason formidable enough to push them into deploying IPv6.
  • The bureaucratic process involved in agreeing on standards; Let us take a study of IEEE. It sits twice a year. Proposals are called for by a sponsor. Balloting is then started when the sponsor decides that the draft is full standard. Balloters come from various interest groups, producers, users and no category can comprise over one-third of the balloting group. Ballots usually last 30 to 60 days where balloters can approve disapprove or even abstain. After balloting, anyone can appeal actions and decisions made during the process at any time. In short, it is a lengthy process to make decisions at such a level. IPv6 still has glitches that need to be fixed through lots of RFCs among others, a process that can probably take five or more years. 
  • Hardware manufacturers still have provision for IPv4. Manufacturers of network equipment for some reason continuously manufacture devices with both IPv6 and IPv4 capabilities. For as long as it is this way, it is only normal that device users will implement what is handy, that is IPv4.
 Ethernet card settings with both addressing schemes
  • The capabilities of NATRFC 1631 Network Address Translation allows a single device, such as a router, network gateway act as agent between the Internet and a local network thus only a single unique IP address configured to it (router) is required to represent an entire group of computers to anything outside their network. This has allowed networks with hundreds of computers use a single public IP address, internally, private addresses are used.
  • In IPv4, there is a concept called CIDR RFC 4632, an acronym for classless inter-domain routing. Through CIDR networks are divided into hierarchy.  CIDR’s ability to selectively subdivide a large block of addresses into smaller ones that suit the needs of various organizations has helped keep IPv4 in use. Since address allocation in CIDR typically starts with larger blocks owned by larger Internet Service Providers (ISPs). To further illustrate how powerful CIDR is, lets assume we are starting a Network Service Provider and have been assigned a block IP of The /15 at the end of the address shows that the first 15 bits are the network ID and the last 17 the host ID. Such an address is obtained from a higher level ISP. Using a possible subdivision of using subnetworking, we can have, with 16,382 hosts, with up to 16,382 with hosts divided into 64/24 blocks of 254 hosts each. The sequence goes on. Thus a single address of can handle up to 131,070 hosts at any given time. This is sufficient for any small ISP that would want to start in Kampala or anywhere else.
Heavy Internet users like Ms. Kiden have been beneficiaries of maximising IPv4 Usage
  • Network hoping/ IP leasing/ DHCP RFC 2131, solar winds provides a solution for this as well.  There are various wireless network points at cities, airports, coffee shops with IP pools, lots of device traffic in and out of these places. However through leasing, IPs are not permanently attached to any devices that access the greater network (internet) using these Wi-Fi or wireless points, thus IP reusability. This has really kept IPv4 usable by not getting depleted.
  • Who to kick start? First, second or third tier ISPs? Enterprise networks, companies or organizations? Such questions have not really been solved thus every player is looking up to the other for implementation. If it was clear that an ISP transitions then all networks connected to it (that ISP) are pushed to implement IPv6, for instance MTN Uganda implementing IPv6 then all networks to it are assigned IPv6 addresses by default, all the modems (dongles) are addressed through an additional standards for stateful autoconfiguration (DHCPv6), a service still being tested, then in a space of five or less years, IPv6 would have been achieved.
  • IPv6 capability of interoperating with IPv4; in this whole issue, involved parties prefer to use the word “transition” to IPv6, though I tend to think it would be more realistic saying the “coexistence”. Paramount to make mention of is, IPv6 does not directly interoperate with IPv4, but being IP it runs under TCP/UDP and over the same link layers as IPv4 therefore through updates to APIs, network stacks and routing protocols, IPv6 can be run alongside IPv4 on the same infrastructure through a mechanism called dual-stack. So far, this is the most common way IPv6 is being introduced today, meaning devices on your local network can communicate natively to external IPv4 or IPv6 systems without any form of translation in place. This reduces the incentive to totally move to IPv6.
  • Cost of transition; this is more of a business problem. Frequent and more advanced system users will know that hardware and software vendors are increasingly integrating IPv6 as a standard feature in products, thus encouraging organizations to deploy IPv6 as part of routine upgrade cycles where deemed right. For various companies, operational costs, including staff training, and one-time administrative costs to add IPv6 to management databases and documentation, shall have to be budgeted for as cost of upgrading to IPv6. Companies tend to avoid costs that are deemed unnecessary-, for now, a financially tight company will consider IPv6 transition as “not so necessary”.
  • Failure to declare a definite date when IPv4 will cease to be usable has impeded the rate of transition. The unforeseeable turning-off of IPv4 has been left to market forces. According to Internet Society, both IPv4 and IPv6 will run in parallel until there is no longer any need to do so. Service Providers still have available public usable IPv4 addresses, the reason you can go to an ISP and you are assigned a public IP, so they have a few more to exhaust. This is a great opportunity for laggards to hold back on rolling IPv6.
Adapted from Source: IPv6 Timeline A pragmatic projection
In conclusion, chronology of transition, timelines, incentives and push factors need to exist before the greater part of computing networks transfer to IPv6.

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