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Preparing for World IPv6 Launch

World IPv6 Launch is just around the corner. By June 6, 2012, web companies, major ISPs, and home networking equipment manufacturers are coming together to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services. Cisco is among them, participating in this global IPv6 launch both as a website operator and leading network solutions provider. As a web company, we’ll be making permanently IPv6 accessible starting on June 6. Here’s a view into how Cisco IT has been preparing our IPv6 web presence.

The enterprise journey toward IPv6 started almost a decade ago, and the focus on our web presence started a couple of years ago when the Cisco IT team built a small-scale, parallel IPv6 environment in a sandbox network that was used to host static content. We used the domain name, knowing that few people would visit the site. It gave us a chance to get our feet wet with IPv6 while minimizing the risk should something go wrong.

Fast forward to June 8, 2011 and World IPv6 Day when many website operators globally enabled IPv6 access to their production sites and services as part of a 24-hour “test run.” Cisco made IPv6 accessible on that day. The outcome was a success, and gave all the participants confidence that IPv6 was truly production ready. World IPv6 Day was also a valuable learning opportunity for Cisco IT to better understand what it would take to permanently IPv6-enable our website.

In the year since that test run, our focus has been on preparing for the World IPv6 Launch. The big difference in planning for this launch stems from “the turn it on and leave it on” objective. To leave IPv6 on permanently demands production quality, and production quality demands readiness. Readiness started for us several months ago when we first sought support for World IPv6 Launch from IT and business leaders. Based on our experiences with World IPv6 Day, we knew that planning and delivery would require collaboration across most of the IT organization. So the first step was buy-in at the CIO level to help ensure that all needed teams were at the table.

Next, we turned our attention toward architecture and design. Our primary goals were to:

  1. Leverage the existing production network infrastructure investment and avoid costs of parallel networks.
  2. Ensure production quality and the ability to maintain service levels for

The design we chose centers on a reverse proxy model using the Cisco Application Control Engine (ACE). Incoming IPv6 sessions are proxied by the ACE to the existing web tier using IPv4. The network upstream of the ACE is dual stacked, including existing ISP connections.

With the design in place, our attention shifted to network hardware, software, service provider, and application readiness. We performed an assessment using the IPv6 Device Readiness Assessment service to determine whether existing devices in our DMZ and data center networks were capable of supporting IPv6. The assessment showed that existing hardware was capable of supporting IPv6, but software upgrades were required on some platforms. In parallel, we assessed our ISP partners and their ability to dual stack existing connections, as well as our content delivery network provider’s ability to accelerate content delivery for over IPv6. Based on our experience with World IPv6 Day, we felt comfortable that existing applications and services residing behind the domain name were compatible with IPv6. The only application that required slight modification was our web analytics system that tracks site usage for and uses source IP address as a data point. We found that the system vendor supported IPv6 in the product, and we made minor configuration changes to accommodate IPv6 source addresses.

Operational readiness followed, which is a critical stage given the need to maintain production levels of service. With service assurance being top of mind, we enhanced our network management systems to support network, device, and application monitoring over IPv6. We also put together a training program to ensure that everyone, from the front line help desk to network engineers, had the IPv6 knowledge and skills appropriate for their role.

And finally we reached system-level testing, which is where we’re at today. End-to-end testing is under way with QA engineers performing functional and performance checks. Our last test will be a “final practice run” when we temporarily advertise an AAAA DNS record for a couple of hours and validate that everything works end to end in our production environment, including our content delivery network and ISP services.

Next stop? June 6, 2012 00:00 UTC.

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Top Five Considerations for Enabling IPv6 Support on Your Application Delivery Controller

As we approach the much talked about World IPv6 Launch on June 6th, 2012 it is important to help as many as possible do what is needed to prepare their own Internet Edge to not only participate in the launch but also to ensure business continuity regardless of which IP version is used.  Start now so you don’t have to rush your deployment at the end.

There are important first steps to take before you ever type the first command or click the first check box on a product.  Important stuff like a gap analysis on what you can and cannot support as well as what your provider supports IPv6-wise, what your address plan will look like and other considerations. Luckily Cisco has either written a document or a blog on many of these topics. Recent blogs include:

Given that we are just shy of a month away from World IPv6 Launch, I wanted to blog on the top considerations for enabling IPv6 support on one of the most important components of any Internet Edge design, the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) or more commonly known as a Server Load Balancer (SLB).

Read More »

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Cisco Helps Iceland’s Farice Play a Key Role in Green Cloud Computing

One of the topics we covered this week at the Cisco Packet Optical Networking Conference was cloud computing. A benefit of cloud computing is that the physical infrastructure – the storage and compute resources – can be located almost anywhere as long as there is reliable network access. Several countries are leveraging their low cost green power to grow their economies with new data center facilities. A publicly announced example of this is Facebook which has built an enormous facility in northern Sweden. Iceland with its cooler temperatures and green geothermal power, plus ideal location between North America and Europe has seen a significant growth in its data center industry. However, being an island nation it faces a challenge to ensure that sufficient cost-effective network capacity is available to connect off-island users with its storage and compute resources.

Farice, the primary provider of networking services to and from Iceland and operator of two submarine cable links to Europe has sought to Read More »

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Integrating IPv6 Into Your Network: Five Steps for Building Your IPv6 Address Plan

When I was younger and faced with a large problem, I tended to shy away from the problem and take other paths to avoid the issue in the hope that the issue either got smaller or ideally went away.  I’m finding that as an adult, you cannot always do that.  Some issues just will not go away no matter how hard you try to avoid them or how creative your excuses get for why they are not important right now.

Integrating IPv6 into your network is one of those issues.  It is a large problem that impacts all areas of what goes on in the IT shop – network, security, applications, content, operating systems, etc.  The key to making an integration successful is to make sure that representatives from all IT organizations participate and contribute to the project and to approach the problem by breaking it into manageable chunks.

Step 1: Don’t panic.  Read More »

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IDC’s Nav Chander Analyzes the Economics of the IPv6 Transition

Everyone is talking about the transition to IPv6 in the run up to the June 6th launch of the IPv6 Internet. Most of the discussion has focused on the technical details of various approaches – 6rd vs. DS-Lite vs. CGNAT for example. However, what we haven’t seen is an effort made to look at the economic impact of the choice between IPv4 extension vs. IPv6 transition and back it up with some real world data. A few months back we asked telecommunications analyst Nav Chander of IDC (pictured right) to evaluate and publish the results of an economic analysis of the IPv6 options. This is a crucial and timely topic because operators are faced with important decisions about which transition technologies to use, when to implement them, and where in the network.

We’re pleased to report that Nav is finished and is ready to reveal the results of his findings. To keep the scope of his analysis within a reasonable boundary, he initially focused on just one scenario: that of a wireline carrier considering the deployment of a Carrier Grade NAT-only implementation (which basically just extends the life of IPv4 with no IPv6), or migrating to IPv6 with a combination of CGNAT (for short term IPv4 extension) and while new customers were deployed with 6rd.

The results of this study are detailed in a new Read More »

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