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IPv6 in the Enterprise Data Center – Why is it important

Why is it important to start thinking about IPv6 across your entire network especially the data center?
Remember the term Y2K? The panic and haphazardness that was there to ensure every single device and application was compatible with Y2K? I see IPv6 as a similar situation except that there is no impending date forcing you to adopt it.

The more you wait, the more you lose time to develop IPv6 architecture with ease and peace of mind so that things are done right. And if not done way ahead of time, then you may end up doing things quickly to ensure the business is operational with a poorly designed and operated IPv6 network.

The Next Generation Data Center
IPv6 is becoming ever increasingly important and critical with the success and proliferation of mobile devices and other such applications that require enormous addressing needs. Lot of customers are taking the first step to enable IPv6 in their Internet edge, Campus and WAN edges, but very few customer are realizing the importance of enabling IPv6 inside their data centers.

I came across few such customers that are eager to enable IPv6 inside the data center but have not done any planning or design. Before coming to the reasons why they are eager, it is nevertheless important to say that IPv6 is going to be the protocol of the future.

As an Advanced Services Solutions Architect for the Data Center Practices team, one of my jobs is to deliver planning and designing workshop for customers who are looking into building their “next generation data center architecture”. The word Next Generation is enough to tell them that they should start not only planning and design but most importantly start assessing their data center devices and design to enable IPv6.

My Experience with Customers
In this post, I want to share my experience with customers who are seriously planning to take the next step of building the next generation data center, yet are completely skipping IPv6 in their planning phase. For most of these customers, replacing the Catalyst platform with the newer Nexus platform is extent of building the next generation data center in their minds.

Others want to use the newer, cooler features in the Nexus platform like vPC, VDC, OTV and FabricPath. Agreed, that these features and architectures would entitle their data centers to be called “next generation” but the actual plumbing of the new data Center is still the same: IPv4.

Change the Plumbing, its time
In my view, the real next generation architecture is where you enable the new plumbing system inside the data center and be ready to shift to the enormous and powerful protocol when the business needs you to.

Migrating or integrating IPv6 is not a job that will take few days or months. It will take serious planning and effort to ensure that the expertise in-house is familiar and comfortable with the gigantic protocol whose similarity with IPv4 ends at the first three letters used to represent both the protocols: IPv ;-)

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Why an Assessment Phase is Necessary for Successful IPv6 Adoption

August 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm PST

As you start to look into the IPv6 integration process, you will need to look at what is in place in the network and then assess capabilities.   The assessment process is about discovering capabilities of the existing equipment, services and applications.  The result of the assessment process will give you an idea of what has to be done to ensure that the desired IPv6 features are supported.

A good starting point for the assessment phase is to analyze your infrastructure for basic IPv6 services.  Can I configure an IPv6 address on the device?   Does it support neighbor discovery and ICMPv6?  The question you are trying to answer is “What are the minimum features I absolutely need to get IPv6 up and running?” 

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IPv6 Peering, Part 2: The Next Steps for ISP Interfacing

August 6, 2012 at 5:00 am PST

In my first post on IPv6 peering, I provided some sample questions for your ISP and discussed considerations for the physical implementation.  After the physical details have been worked out, the next step is how to set up the control plane so that routing information can be exchanged.  From a routing perspective, most providers prefer that you peer with them either using BGP or static routing.  Static routing is typically used for single, homed organizations that do not want or need a dynamic routing capability.  In this case, the organization has a default route to the ISP, and the ISP distributes the organizational routes via the ISP BGP process.

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Two months after World IPv6 launch, measuring IPv6 Adoption: 6lab.cisco.com/stats

A few weeks ago I shared my view on World IPv6 Launch impact: http://blogs.cisco.com/news/ipv6webimpact. Roughly two months later, it is time to look again, and time to reflect on what has been accomplished.

I used to represent the IPv6 migration of the last 10 years as a classic Mexican standoff. Basically, no one (ISP, Content owner, Users, Devices, Enterprises) could see a benefit in being the first one to move, and the risk was perceived too high. At the same time the IPv4 address pools, both at global, regional and local level, are being exhausted, and there was a consensus, it was an absolute must to enable IPv6, to make sure the Internet could continue to grow, prosper, and innovate. But no one moved…

This is the impasse that World IPv6 Launch, on June 6th 2012, has removed forever !

Sponsored and brilliantly managed by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Launch, was a great way to create our own crisis as an industry, and in a very practical way, just deal with it (Leading Content providers, ISP and Enterprises, led by example, turned on IPv6 for good and subsequently left it on). But let not be foolish this was just the beginning. In order for IPv6 to power the Internet at large, there are many many deployment phases the industry has to go through, multiple challenges that have to be overcome. The Internet is probably the largest communication system mankind has ever built, and it is VERY decentralized. The migration to IPv6 is no exception. IPv6 deployments, will not happen coincidentally across regions and countries, and the current danger is that the migration happens at very different pace around the globe, creating great imbalance in the continuous availability of an unencumbered, end to end, global Internet.

Having clear metrics to measure on-going IPv6 adoption is the best way to foster deployment, monitor success and spot trouble areas, and in the end, make better (data driven) business decision. This is the challenge, Cisco IPv6 High Impact Project group has addressed.

In order to understand how we are doing globally and locally, each of the deployment phases has to be measured. All theses statistics will be gathered computed and displayed daily, on a global AND on a per-country basis, in order to be able to understand adoption drivers, trends, and be able to benchmark performance against peer countries.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce 6lab.cisco.com/stats , Cisco’s IPv6 adoption statistics WEB site, where you will find daily consolidated and updated statistics in a single view at global and country level.

  • Simply mouse over the world map to see aggregated metrics per country.
  • Select your favorite “data type” to see more details for each metric.
  • Click on “world-scale data” or click on a country  to display historical data.
  •  Methodology, explanation of available data, and a tutorial are available http://6lab.cisco.com/stats/information.php
  • Country “IPv6 overall deployment” index is the weighted average of  adoption metrics:  {IPv6 Transit AS*25 % + IPv6 Content*25 %+ IPv6 Users*50 %}

Internet IPv6 deployment has to go through many phases. let me describe how we can measure progress for each and every phase. When existing data are publicly available we use them.  When nothings is readily available or isn’t satisfactory, we’ve build programs to gather complementary statistics.

Before doing anything with IPv6, one needs to build a plan. One of the first step of that plan is to get an IPv6 prefix. Measuring the growth of IPv6 prefix allocation by region and country give a good leading indicator of future IPv6 deployment. We can then, measure the percentage of theses prefixes that show up in the Internet BGP Routing table. That provides a metric of actual IPv6 Networks deployment rate, and a leading indicator to contrast and compare Network readiness with peer countries

The first place where IPv6 needs to be enabled, in the Internet, is the Core Network (the so called Internet Transit Providers). We can measure penetration of IPv6 in theses core networks by digging the BGP Routing Table. Not every BGP Autonomous System has the same importance in the Internet, so we computed a weight and a rank for each and every Autonomous Systems, based on the number of time it shows up in the path for all IPv4 and IPv6 prefixes.
The majors transit providers, sometimes called Tier1, have ALL enabled IPv6 transit service, and 80% of the TOP 100 AS’s are transit for IPv6 and IPv4.
While The Core of the Internet is mostly ready, more work needs to be done in the regional and local transit networks.  As we move to the “periphery” of the Internet, IPv6 readiness is getting weaker.

As the Core is getting ready, Content providers and Enterprise alike can now, get proper IPv6 connectivity and enable their Web Site, and Applications. In order to measure IPv6 Content we have to collect and correlate multiple metrics. We need to look into the DNS system, to find out how many domain names (ex: www.google.com, or www.cisco.com) have a bounded IPv6 address (aka AAAA). But that’s hardly sufficient; having an AAAA record does not mean the site is actually reachable over IPv6. So we open an HTTP session to the Domain home page over IPv6, before we declare a site to be fully IPv6 enabled.

Another common step before enabling IPv6 in production is to create an IPv6 test WEB site, with a dedicated domain name.
So if a AAAA record doesn’t exist for a given Domain, we also look for commonly used IPv6 clone Domain Name such as ipv6.domain.com, or ww6.domain.com or go6.domain.com … This is providing a really good leading indication of how many web sites are actually PLANNING a future deployment of IPv6.

When measuring IPv6 reachable content, globally of locally, one should consider the relative importance of the web sites. Users are more likely to connect, spend time and access content on the most popular sites. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Wikipedia or Yahoo globally or Baidu in China or Mail.ru in Russia attract the majority of users and hence generate the most traffic.
So we looked at, and tested, the TOP500 Web sites (as per www.alexa.com) in around 130 countries, which are representing the vast majority of users, clicks and content on the Internet. The rest of the web sites are really the long tail of Internet content, and do not have a significant impact. We also looked at the weight of each web site, among the country TOP500. Again based on www.alexa.com publicly available data (% of pages viewed), we computed a function that based on its country rank, assigns a weight to each and every WEB site in country TOP500.

By summing up the pre-computed weights of every IPv6 enabled site (as per previous tested list), we can get an estimated % of pages available over IPv6 per country. That is the estimated content, that an average IPv6 Internet user in a given country can get access to. It is the kind of data that ISP and Network operator should look at, in order to do proper capacity planning of their IPv6 infrastructure, or perhaps more importantly how much sessions/traffic will bypass the CGN and other NAT’s along the way .

The estimated % of WEB pages reachable over IPv6 varies greatly across countries.  (Ex: Brazil: 50%, France: 46%, Germany: 44%, USA: 40%, Russia: 24%, China: 18% ). In the most advanced countries we can see the Mexican Standoff situation dissolving. There is now a significant amount of content available for IPv6 users.

Hence Internet Service Providers have now a good business reason to offer IPv6 to their broadband and mobile end-users. Since World IPv6 Launch several leading Service Providers (both fixed and mobile) around the world, are enabling IPv6 by default for new subscribers, starting a transition and driving steady growth of IPv6 enabled users. And more ISP will do the same in the coming months.
Google is measuring and publishing the percentage of end-user connections they see coming to Google Search over IPv6 (http://www.google.com/ipv6/statistics.html). APNIC (the ASIA PAC Internet Regional Registry) is also measuring IPv6 end-user adoption leveraging Adware Networks to sense IPv6 end-user capabilities (http://www.circleid.com/posts/20120625_measuring_ipv6_country_by_country/).
Both Google and APNIC data’s tend to be very consistent globally, except perhaps in countries (ex: China) were Google Search is not as prevalent, and for which APNIC methodology seems to produce more accurate data. So rather than re-inventing the wheel, we shamelessly  just publish their data (thank you to both, for sharing).

Globally the % of Internet users who enjoy IPv6 connectivity now passed .8%. That does not seems a lot, however it is growing fast and this is already representing Millions of Internet users.  There are great disparities across the world. User enablement greatly depends on local ISP ability and willingness to deliver IPv6 connectivity, as well as home router or device upgrade.

As of August 1st 2012 (but it is already obsolete) , the % of IPv6 Internet users in the most significant countries is: Romania 8.6%, France 4.7%, Japan 1.8%, USA 1.5%… that represent millions of end users around the world.

In conclusion, great progress in enabling IPv6 Network and Content. Thank you very much to World IPv6 Launch that has helped tremendously turning on IPv6 in the Internet infrastructure. There is still a long way to go, before a  significant proportion of Internet users have IPv6 connectivity in production. I hope this IPv6 Adoption Statistics tool http://6lab.cisco.com/stats will help stimulate the Internet eco-system to enable IPv6 at an accelerated pace, in particular in regions where IPv4 exhaustion is becoming a very acute problem. No doubt IPv6 is critical for the Internet to continue to grow and prosper for the next generations.

Special thank to Hugo Kaczmarek for doing a lot of the heavy lifting, gathering data, mushing and crunching numbers and creating a cool web site.

What have you enabled IPv6 on TODAY?  At Cisco, we enabled IPv6 on http://blogs.cisco.com . You should read this blog over IPv6.

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IP Address Management, Part V: Return on Investment (ROI)

An IP Address Management (IPAM) solution is not just a repository for IP addresses. The simplicity and thoroughness it offers makes for a powerful tool that increases the efficiency and reliability of networks while substantially reducing operating expenses:

  • Automation of Processes: Tasks that administrators don’t have to manage manually result in direct management time and operating expense savings.
  • Simplification of Processes: Reducing the Read More »

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