IPv6 – Unwanted Child?

Near the end of the old year, a juicy discussion broke out in the “main” IETF mailing list. Although it was ignited by a bizarre proposal of IP version 10, in reality it reflects a general frustration caused by the sluggish pace of IPv6 deployment. John Klensin, one of Internet’s grandfathers, expressed a surprisingly sceptical and self-critical opinion. He means that IPv6 proponents gradually lose on credibility: “[We] spent many years trying to tell people that IPv6 was completely ready, that all transition issues had been sorted out and that deployment would be easy and painless. When those stories became ever more clearly false, we then fell back on claims or threats that failure to deploy IPv6 before assorted events occurred would cause some evil demon to rise up [and] devour them and their networks. Most of those events have now occurred without demonstrable bad effects; …”

Klensin also suspects that the end-to-end principle that was so fundamental to the original Internet may not be very attractive anymore for content providers who treat the Net as CDN, for Internet service providers who want to charge higher fees for server functionality, or for states that demand strict control of IP addresses on their territory. Many technologies and phenomena that in fact delay IPv6 deployment, such as CG-NAT or IPv4 addresses becoming a commercial commodity, may in reality better suit their business and political models.

Opponents of these gloomy visions, let us call them v6-optimists, argued with successful IPv6 deployments in networks of many telco operators, ISPs and global enterprises. They don’t see any reason for panic, according to them it should suffice to wait till the moment (that is bound to come) when all workarounds and excuses are simply no more economically viable. Until then we can work on making the transition to IPv6 as smooth as possible. Most optimists also agreed that 2018 will be the year of IPv6 breakthrough. Let’s wait and see …

Other voices mentioned practical difficulties that IPv6 users, both small and big, often face. Randy Bush, yet another of bearded coryphées, claimed that existing deficiencies of the DHCPv6 protocol are the show-stopper for many corporate users. Whilst the IPv6 standards clearly assume that stateless configuration (SLAAC) will be the principal mechanism for end-host address allocation and routing, many companies apparently want to keep detailed control over address allocation and first-hop routing. Interestingly enough, this problem is amplified by the absence of DHCPv6 in Android – Randy Bush said it was due to religious reasons.

I can sincerely recommend all IPv6 supporters (and enemies, too) to read the archive of said mailing list between 28 December 2016 and New Year’s Day. Quite frankly, I do not dare to predict what the future is going to bring regarding IPv6 deployment. What’s beyond any doubt is that interesting times are ahead of us – and a lot of work as well.

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