I can sum it up with one sentence: IPv6 costs money, it does not make it.
But the long ago the world received the commandment from the ether: Migrate!
Migrate …and pay for it yourself with no immediately obvious capacity for a return on the investment. And we wonder why the migration is almost 20 years in the making…
A business or home user migrating to IPv6 is an act of altruism. You (company or individual) spend your money to migrate to IPv6 for the benefit of the Internet as a whole, the benefits to you are secondary (at best). On the surface the whole thing appears to be completely contra to the objectives of capitalism. Businesses are supposed to make money. They only spend money in order to make more money. That’s what they are supposed to do. IPv6 has struggled to offer a clear and measurable path to profit that can easily be seen by most commercial entities, especially ISPs. This provides a glimpse into their historical (and continuing) lack of desire to do it.
I love IPv6. My infatuation with it is really quite silly. It is, after all, just a networking protocol suite. For the most part (yes, there are plenty of exceptions) it does the same thing that IPv4 does. At least that’s what the end-users will say. They don’t care what protocol is used so long as they can update their Facebook status with any device. So why do I love it so much? Why am I such a fan in support of the IPv6 migration? Let’s solve for it:
IPv6 = Cool Technology.
Geek = Fan of Cool Technology.
Colin = Geek.
Therefore, Colin = Fan of IPv6
That was simple math. When I sit at a keyboard, Kip’s wedding song from Napoleon Dynamite is playing in my head. So yeah, I’m an easy sell on IPv6. It’s cool ergo I want it. But ‘cool’ doesn’t make the check-writers of the world want to invest in replacing a technology that seems to be working without a very clear vision on how the money will pay itself back with a profit.
Why do you replace a car? Lots of reasons, right? It’s old, lacks features that a newer car has. It isn’t safe or reliable. It’s too expensive to maintain. It won’t start. Something like that. Have you ever replaced a perfectly good car with an apparently similar car? Probably not. You’d look at the two and say, “I can keep driving this one that works pretty well and is paid for or I can finance this new one for five years and it will work about the same.” Hmmmm… what’s that saying? “Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.”
Now, before you other IPv6 fans start to flame me for saying that IPv6 is the same as IPv4 and that IPv4 is not broken let me spare your keyboard some unnecessary pounding and tell you that I know full well that IPv6 is better and that IPv4 is all kinds of busted. IPv4 is held together by the network equivalents of duct tape, zip ties and popsicle sticks. But IPv6 is only better in the eyes of IT people. You know, the type of people who would have actually read this far into a blog post about IPv6.
The future of the Internet is on IPv6. We know this. IPv4 address depletion is the battle-cry of the migration-minded v6 professional. IPv6 as the Internet’s future is the profit-oriented business case for the migration. But that truth has too much haze around it to make it a compelling reason for a check-writer to put pen to paper. With no ultra-clear profit-oriented business case, NAT444 (CGN, Carrier Grade NAT) and similar pieces of networking duct tape are going to allow for IPv4’s existence in painful perpetuity. IPv6 has no killer feature, no killer app, no mechanism at all that makes anybody anywhere say, “I gotta’ have that!”.
The result is what we have today: I call it “reluctant migration through attrition”. When companies buy new gear they make sure it will support IPv6 and then promptly disable it or don’t configure it. One day they will turn around and everything will support IPv6 and they will just turn it on and the migration will be done. Hilarious. If only it were that simple.
Users have nothing enticing them to pine for IPv6. It doesn’t make them feel good. It won’t make them popular or smarter. It won’t earn you any more Likes on Facebook and it won’t make Google’s home page load any faster. And if it did shave a few milliseconds off the load time do you think the users would notice or care? Users don’t demand it so ISP’s and hosting providers have had no particular desire to provide it (in the United States, at least). Why spend money replacing something that works with something else that works when people aren’t complaining about the current something that works?
Businesses (ISPs in particular) haven’t fully figured out how to monetize the migration. Companies are being asked to spend a lot of time, money and effort with no clear way to get a return. ISP’s are for-profit entities. There has to be a golden egg in it for them. There isn’t. Exhibit A: Most of the ISPs in the United States. I have been bugging my ISP (all of them in my area) for a native IPv6 option for more than a decade. Placating responses is all I ever receive in return; something read off a cue card to blow me off in a nice way. Will I switch to the first ISP in my area that offers native IPv6 to residential customers? Absolutely. That makes me one of about 500 people in my community of 1.7 million. I have to admit that I may be geographically pigeonholing myself a bit on this. ISPs in the United States have long trailed other parts of the world when it comes to v6 migration efforts. Note: Government subsidies to ISPs for IPv6 migration is not that answer that people like me want to hear. I’m not interested in making bigger government in order to support this. Let’s not go there.
Hosting providers are just as ambivalent as many ISPs. My hosting provider recently sent me this response when I asked (for the tenth time) when I would be able to get IPv6 support on my hosted site:
“As IPv4 is still available we are not currently supporting IPv6, but we have the measures in place so that once it is ready to use we will be able to support it.”
I would have had more respect for them if they had just told me to buzz off. The canned response they sent was insulting. I would have respected a more truthful answer like, “offering IPv6 connectivity for your site is going to cost us money that we won’t be able to charge you for so we aren’t really interested in doing it. And until we completely run out of ways to make your site work with IPv4 we don’t plan on doing anything to support your site with IPv6. Have a nice day.”
So what’s the solution? Nothing specific. If I had that answer I’d be taking a bath in money rather than pecking away at a keyboard. My best advice: Go.
- Go IPv6 at home. If you have to tunnel, do so. But never be satisfied with a tunnel. Tunnels are transitions tools, not stopping points. Native IPv6 is the desired end result. Become something audible in your ISPs ear. Encourage others to do so as well. As ISPs come to realize that an increasing portion of their customer base wants IPv6 they will respond accordingly.
- Go IPv6 at work. Even if it’s just a test network. Go.
- Go IPv6 on the web. Pester your hosting provider to enable IPv6 support for your site.
- Go be (or continue to be ) an IPv6 evangelist. Sell IPv6 everywhere you can. Get smart(er) about it and be prepared to overcome objections. Even after almost two decades we need more converts.
Colin Weaver is co-owner and lead instructor at ITdojo, Inc., a network security and information assurance training center and consulting firm located in Virginia Beach, VA. His passion for technology, networks, and security has led him to become enthralled with the idea of IPv6 and its implementation. In this blog he will share with you glimpses of what he has learned and a hint at what you’ll learn in his classes. Visit https://www.itdojo.com to learn more about ITdojo IPv6 course offerings.