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V6 World Congress – March 2014 – A Premier IPv6 Event for the Communications Industry

Few days ago, the Networking Industry “who’s who” gathered in Paris for the fourth edition of v6 World Congress I’m very proud that Cisco has been sponsoring and supporting this IPv6 Conference since its inception. It is always a very special feeling to have so many industry leaders visiting my hometown.  This event has become a milestone in the global deployment of IPv6. Paris is the place to be in March each year, if you want to get a status update of IPv6 transition, one of the most important technology transition the Internet have ever gone through.

I want to share what I personally consider, the most important take-away of the week.

IPv6-Centric Vision: Mark Townsley (Cisco Fellow) keynote was both inspirational and very well received. Townsley “IPv6-Centric” vision positioned IPv6 as not only addressing the IPv4 exhaust issue and restoring end-to-end, but truly redefining end-to-end, in that it emphasized simplicity, innovation and elegance of design enabled by IPv6, which resonated quite well with the audience. It is clearly the next phase of IPv6 adoption by fixed and mobile operators, and Content providers. “IPv6 Centric vision” was immediately validated by several other speakers who referred to Mark’s vision statement in their own presentation (Facebook, EE , Google Fiber, Rogers Communications and also,   -  “For us, end-to-end starts in the home.” Axel Clauberg, DT.    --    “IPv6 end-to-end with Segment Routing is SDN done right.” John Brzozowski, Comcast.

Many Cisco contributions (i.e. IPv6 IPTV, IPv6 Segment Routing, Homenet, IPv6 Openstack) were identified as critical to redefining end-to-end with IPv6-centric architectures. Mark demonstrated Cisco’s IPv6 industry leadership, with a clear vision and roadmap:         “IPv6: The Internet Protocol for the Internet of Everything”

IPv6 Deployment Progressing As Planned.  Service Providers  (Comcast, Telus, DT, Telenet, Google fiber), Regional Registries (RIPE and ARIN) and independent observers (Internet Society, University of Tokyo) presented latest numbers and trends with regard to IPv6 adoption on the Internet. All the data going in the right direction (Global Internet IPv6 user penetration passed 3%, while some several very large ISP are well over 30% ). Townsley also shared actual IPv6 Internet users and growth projections. By end of 2014 we should have 6 to 9% of global internet population with IPv6; and by end of 2017, somewhere between 30 and 50%. However they also have outlined challenges (i.e. Japan-NTT architecture and regulatory issues, or not enough content IPv6 reachable by default (see call for action) .

Call to Action: Several Internet Service Providers, deploying IPv6 by default and having over 20-30% of their subscribers on IPv6, were disappointed by the volume of IPv6 traffic in their network (only 5 to 10%), specifically Comcast, Google Fiber, Telus. There are many reasons why the volume of traffic does not grow in the same proportion as the share of subscribers with IPv6 turned on; including the lack of IPv6 support on popular consumer electronic devices. For example Netflix or YouTube are IPv6-enabled, but if the Connected TV in the home is not, then only the video traffic played by a PC or a Tablet will show up as IPv6 in traffic statistics.  However, there is also a sentiment that more needs to come from web and video platforms or social media, e-commerce, content distribution networks (ex: Akamai, Limelight) and web hosters and cloud providers (ex: Amazon, Rackspace, OVH), which are hosting or caching a very significant portion of Internet Content.
As John Brzozowski from Comcast says (sic)…“If we can enable IPv6 by default for all of our users and all of our Comcast applications and content platforms, the other content providers should be able to do so!” .

Enabling more content to be accessible over IPv6 is critical for the ISP IPv6 business case to be sustainable.  In geographies where IPv6 is pervasive (i.e. US, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Japan, etc.), we should help Enterprises, Media and Local E-commerce websites to enable IPv6 on their WEB presence. It is an opportunity for theses companies to restore end-to-end communication with their end-users, in order to provide an un-encumbered and transparent communication that will bypass any technical equipments used by ISP’s to manage exhaustion of IPv4 address (ie; Carrier Grade NAT’s), which in turns will help ISP to cap their investment in CGN.

Mobile: After the first wave of Wireline/Cable Operators in 2012 and 2013 (ATT, Free, Swisscom, Comcast, TWC, Telenet, Belgacom, etc.), and after Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US, last year announcement they were deploying IPv6 in production, several mobile operators came out publicly, outlining their plan to deploy IPv6-only by default on mobile handset in 2014 (Dave May, Roger Communications and Nick Heatley,EE). Many more mobile operators are following this trend.  Flexible APN selection/configuration per device type, and 464xlate (which is enabling ipv4 legacy application to still function, as IPv4 is provided as a service over IPv6), are key to enable mobile operators to deploy IPv6 only smootly and without disrupting existing services. This will drive some significant growth of IPv6 traffic as device churn and reconfiguration is a lot easier on mobile devices and Mobile Packet Core networks. The deployment of VoLTE, which was specified to run over a dedicated IPv6 APN, is also a driver of IPv6 adoption in 4G networks.

Where NfV/SDN meets IPv6: the World Congress is an ideal place for NFv/SDN and IPv6 to meet, as both topics are addressed by two conferences running in parallel during the Congress. Nephos6 CEO, Ciprian Popoviciu, presented an excellent case of new products and technologies that haven’t been designed from the start with IPv6, which are creating some serious challenges in enabling large-scale Cloud infrastructures (in particularly quite relevant to NfV for IPv6-only services). Both the Datacenter overlay’s and underlay must support IPv6 to make these NV Operators scale. Openstack network services (Neutron) lack of IPv6 support is a real barrier to the adoption of SDN/NfV and Cloud for SP and Cloud providers alike (See Axel Clauberg DT-Terastream presentation). DT-Terastream and Comcast both want to use Openstack for IPv6 NFV flexible resource provisioning, and scale. Thankfully there is a group of people working at enabling IPv6 in Neutron (the network component of Openstack) .
“The promise of Cloud cannot be delivered without IPv6.”
Ciprian Popoviciu, CEO Nephos6

Deployment Challenges: Paul Saab fm Facebook unveiled their aggressive move to not only enable IPv6 throughout their data centers, but to begin turning IPv4 off by year end. Despite the many “bumps” they faced along the way, Facebook reported that they are 75% finished already, and remain on track to 100% IPv6-only operation by the end of 2014. The now “famous” Facebook presentation outlined why the road to IPv6 was bumpy outlining some challenges, with DC networking, Inconsistent API’s, Databases, Applications and overall Developers lack of proficiency with IPv6 system environment. LinkedIn presented their own challenges, largely with regard to the specifics of enabling IPv6-based email for their users..

Education and TrainingOne of the most important challenges, companies deploying IPv6 are facing is the knowledge gap. Many presenters (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Fiber, Telus, Cisco) outlined the lack of broad understanding of IPv6 systems is leading to ill informed design (i.e. improper addressing plans that later need to be changed) or, worse yet, just the wrong decision about IPv6 architecture, IPv6 security or transition strategy.  We often take for granted that the level of networking personnel’s IPv6 proficiency is adequate – “after all, this is IP. v4 and v6 can’t be THAT different”-. This is a dangerous assumption to make.  Still today most Engineers get their networking 101 purely on IPv4. There is a lack of IPv6 education, which needs to be addressed in technical schools, at the college level as well as continuing education at the professional level. Cisco is doing a great job at including IPv6 into the Net Academy and Cisco professional certification programs (CCNA, CCIE, CCDP…if you need to recertify or plan for a new cisco certification, you better get very familiar with IPv6, or you will fail). The companies deploying at large scale had to put in place mandatory training programs in order to address the IPv6 knowledge gap. But the feeling is that basic education (undergrad and specialized) needs to put IPv6 first (and treat IPv4 as legacy) in every basic networking introductory class.
The Internet industry cannot afford to absorb yet another generation of engineers that are missing IPv6 proficiency. IPv6 isn’t a nice to have anymore, it is a mandatory skill.

As v6 World Congress 2014 excitement vanes, we are looking forward to another great year of IPv6 growth. We shall see the next wave of IPv6 deployments, in order for the Internet to continue to scale and grow, and enable the billions of people, processes, data and things to communicate and become the Internet of Everything.

Remember: “IPv6 is The Internet Protocol for the Internet of Everything”

What have you enabled IPv6 on today ?

Thank you note: kudos to Cisco’s presenters who contribute a great deal to the conference’s success: Mark Townsley, Chris Martin, Bill Versteeg, Khalid Jawaid, Eric Vyncke, Andrew Yourtchenko, Gunter Van de Velde, Steve Simlo and your truly Alain Fiocco.

Selected presentations of interest:

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Navigating Device Management and Control Interfaces in the Age of SDN

February 28, 2014 at 10:59 am PST

The proliferation of different types of device interfaces places a significant burden on application developers and equipment providers alike. One of the reasons for the rise of Software Defined Networking (SDN) is its promise to simplify management by providing a single point through which the entire network can be managed and administered. This raises the question whether this promise extends towards dramatic simplification of the device interface landscape as well, specifically, whether SDN can put an end to device interface proliferation and in the future a single management and control interface may be all that is required. Unfortunately, it turns out that this particular hope is unsubstantiated. Here is why.

The Promised SDN Land of Interface Simplification

Much has been made of the need to align the various interfaces through which networking devices can be managed and controlled. It has been difficult enough to just keep SNMP implementations consistent. Throw CLI, syslog, and Web Services into the mix, and the task becomes daunting indeed. One reason why different interfaces have to be supported has to do with customer preferences, of course. Chef is the new paradigm to support? Sure, we’ll add that. ReST is becoming en-vogue? We’ll support that too.

In the middle of all this, along comes SDN. “Don’t bother with individual devices and their legacy interfaces” is the siren call. “Use a controller to orchestrate the network instead” – a single point of control through which the network can be operated and maintained, an enticing value proposition indeed. Early SDN technology such as OpenFlow made a big splash and gained a lot of mind share this way. Rather than messing with the hodgepodge of existing interfaces, a single interface was introduced to control OpenFlow switches. Just support this one interface, or so the message went, and your equipment can join the New World of Software-Defined Networking, leaving the Old World of fragmented interfaces behind, much like early European settlers coming to America hoped for freedom and a better life, leaving behind constantly quarreling fiefdoms and many centuries of historical baggage. Read More »

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XMPP: A Power Tool in Your Tool Box

February 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm PST

Extensive Message Protocol (XMPP) is an open standard protocol based on XML (Extensible Markup Language). XMPP is designed to transport instant messages (IM) between entities and to detect online presence. It supports authentication of IM application and secure transport of messages over SSL/TLS. In XMPP entities can be bots, physical users, servers, devices or components. It’s really a powerful tool that has great potential for system administrators to add to their toolbox because:

  • XMPP is powerful
  • XMPP with Python is only 12 lines of code – trust me, it’s easy!
  • XMPP only requires a single query for multiple nodes
  • Status message can be used to track host presence

The Power of XMPP

For those of you that are not familiar with XMPP, it not only supports one-to-one messaging between entities but it also supports multi-party messaging (which enables an entity to join a chat room for the exchange of messages with several participants). The messages can be text messages embedded in XML format but XML can also be used to send control messages between entities as we will see with the presence stanza in a bit.

XMPP is widely used; Google uses it (for its Hangout application -- formerly google chat) and so does Yahoo and MSN. At Cisco, we use Cisco Jabber extensively to communicate internally. The XMPP client function is now integrated in the Cisco Nexus 5000 series with the release 5.2(1)N1(7) and the Nexus 6000 series with the release of 7.0(0)N1(1). XMPP is an integral part of the single console access for Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) which is a powerful framework described in my previous blog.

The new Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) 7.0(1) is delivered as an OVA file that can be deployed quickly on an existing VMware-enabled server. Although DCNM comes with a lot of features that simplify the deployment of the Data Center fabric, we can pick and choose any service we want to use independently -- which is great since DCNM comes with Cisco Jabber XCP and is license free. If you already have a XMPP service installed (like Openfire or ejabberd), it will not be a problem because everything discussed here is valid on any standard XMPP implementation.

On NX-OS devices, the XMPP feature is activated by configuring ‘feature fabric access’ and is part of the Enhanced L2 license (ENHANCED_LAYER2_PKG). Once activated, the switch becomes a XMPP client that needs to be registered on the server. In order to register it, XMPP requires the use of fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) to identify the domain server. If the switch does not have access to a DNS service, I recommend that you use the switch management network for messaging and a static host–to–IP address mapping in the switch configuration.

The switch will use its hostname to login to the XMPP service. If your XMPP server does not support auto-registration, you will need to register the switch and the rooms in the XMPP database beforehand. The DCNM OVA requires users and groups to be created via the CLI, and example of this user and group creation is:

[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf0 -p cisco123
User added.
[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf1 -p cisco123
User added.

User added. Read More »

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FOSDEM 2014: Cisco Powered World First

For a few of us in the Cisco Brussels office the last weekend of January always marks a special occasion.

The weekend is dedicated to the Free and Open-source Software Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM) conference in Brussels, with around 5,000 visitors attending. The event happens at the ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) campus, but traditionally uses its own network infrastructure, sponsored by Cisco. And we, who are Cisco employees, volunteered our time to help the community as well as meet some new friends and get extra hands-on experience with a sizable network.

What was different this year was that just before the official start of the conference I finally figured out how NAT64 works, gave a 5 minute warning on twitter (image below), and then disabled IPv4 on the main network (simply stated I removed the IPv4 address of the router on the client interface so that only the IPv6 address remained).


That meant that visitors would only get an IPv6 address Read More »

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My Cisco Live Milan IPv6 Firsts

That is it, Cisco Live Milan is over! The “before” of anticipation, seemingly a moment ago, is replaced by the “after” of takeaways and accomplishments for the week. Some passed their CCIE certification, some met a new business partner, but it’s likely that everyone learned something new. I am not an exception.

During the week, I presented at two different technical breakout sessions (BRKRST-2304 -- Hitchhiker’s Guide to Troubleshooting IPv6 and BRKEWN-2666 -- IPv6 on WiFi: You talk too much! NOT anymore) and spent my remaining time working with everyone in the Network Operations Center (NOC) to ensure that IPv6 is a smooth ride for all of the 9,000+ devices on the network. Not only did I learn a lot, but this year at Cisco Live Milan was a year of “firsts” for me.

  • For starters, it was the first time I shared details about my experience with large-scale IPv6 WiFi setups with Cisco Live attendees in the form of a breakout session. After talking with attendees, my main takeaway -- Read More »

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