World IPv6 Day is June 8. We’re ready, how about you?

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World IPv6 day, scheduled for 8 June 2011, is a global-scale test flight of IPv6 sponsored by the Internet Society. On World IPv6 Day, major web companies and other industry players will come together to enable IPv6 on their main websites for 24 hours. The goal is to motivate organizations across the industry — Internet service providers, hardware makers, operating system vendors and web companies — to prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 address space runs out.

This is more than a marketing play to promote IPv6 capabilities, it’s a serious test to ensure that services are prepared to meet the challenge of a dual-stack environment of the kind that will be necessary to support the migration from IPv4 to IPv6. Such a migration is not a trivial task as it requires more than simply flipping a switch in the billions of components, applications and services that make up what we call “The Internet”. That’s because IPv6 shares basic concepts like routing, switching and internetworking communication with IPv4, but the technical bits that describe hosts, services and endpoints on the Internet and in the data center are different enough to make cross-protocol communication challenging.

CS15-00025_WEB--IPv6-promo-banner-v2_transSupporting IPv6 is easy; supporting communication between IPv6 and IPv4 during such a massive migration is not.

If you consider how tightly coupled not only routing and switching  but applications and myriad security, acceleration, access and application-centric networking policies are to IP you start to see how large a task such a migration really will be. cloud computing hasn’t helped there by relying on IP address as the primary mechanism for identifying instances of applications as they are provisioned and decommissioned throughout the day. All that eventually needs to change, to be replaced with IPv6 compatible systems, components and management frameworks, and it’s not going to happen in a single day.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The first step is simply to lay the foundation for services and core Internet communications to support IPv6, and that’s what World IPv6 Day is promoting – an IPv6 Internet with IPv6 capable services on the outside interacting with other IPv6 capable services and networking components and clients. In many ways, World IPv6 Day will illustrate the power of loose coupling, of service-oriented networking and architectures.

Most organizations aren’t ready for the gargantuan task of migrating their data centers to IPv6, nor the investment that may be required in upgrading or replacing core infrastructure to support the new standard. The beautify of loose-coupling and translative gateways, however, is that they don’t have to – yet.

As part of our participation in World IPv6 Day, F5’s IT team worked hard - and ate a whole lot of our own dog food - to ensure that users have a positive experience while browsing our sites from an IPv6 device. That means you don’t have to press “1” for IPv6 or “2” for IPv4 as you do when communicating with organizations that supporting multiple languages.

Like our own customers, we have an organizational reliance on IP addresses in the network and application infrastructure that thoroughly permeates throughout configurations and even application logic. But leveraging our own BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) with IPv6 Gateway Module means we don’t have to perform a mass IPectomy on our entire internal infrastructure. Using the IPv6 gateway we’re able to maintain our existing infrastructure – all talking IPv4 – while providing IPv6 interfaces to Internet-facing infrastructure and clients. Both our corporate site (www.f5.com) and our community site (devcentral.f5.com) have been “migrated” to IPv6 and stand ready to speak what will one day be the lingua franca of the Internet.

Granted, we had some practice at Interop 2011 supporting the Interop NOC IPv6 environment. F5 provided network and DNS translations and facilitated access and functionality for both IPv4 and IPv6 clients to resources on the Interop network. F5 also provided an IPv6 gateway to the www.interop.com website.

Because organizations can continue to leverage IPv4 internally with an IPv6 gateway – and thus make no changes to its internal architecture, infrastructure, and applications – there is less pressure to migrate immediately, which can reduce the potential for introducing problems that cause downtime and outages.  As Mike Fratto twitterbird mentioned when describing Network Computing’s IPv6 enablement using BIG-IP:

quote-badge Like many other organizations, we have to migrate to IPv6 at some point, and this is the first step in the process--getting our public-facing servers ready. There is no rush to roll out massive changes, and by taking the transition in smaller bits, you will be able to manage the transition seamlessly.

A planned, conscious effort to move to IPv6 internally in stages will reduce the overall headaches and inevitable outages caused by issues sure to arise during the process.

F5 and IPv6

F5 BIG-IP supports IPv6 but more importantly its IPv6 Gateway Module supports efforts to present an IPv6 interface to the public-facing world while maintaining existing IPv4 based infrastructure.

Deploying a gateway can provide the translation necessary to enable the entire organization to communicate with IPv6 regardless of IP version utilized internally. A gateway translates between IP versions rather than leveraging tunneling or other techniques that can cause confusion to IP-version specific infrastructure and applications. Thus if an IPv6 client communicates with the gateway and the internal network is still completely IPv4, the gateway performs a full translation of the requests bi-directionally to ensure seamless interoperation. This allows organizations to continue utilizing their existing investments – including network management software and packaged applications that may be under the control of a third party and are not IPv6 aware yet – but publicly move to supporting IPv6.

Additionally, F5 BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager (GTM) handles IPv6 integration natively when answering AAAA (IPv6) DNS requests and includes a checkbox feature to reject IPv6 queries for Wide IPs that only have IPv4 addresses, which forces the client DNS resolver to re-request asking for the IPv4 address. This solves a common problem with deployment of dual stack IPv6 and IPv4 addressing. The operating systems try to query for an IPv6 address first and will hang or delay if they don’t get a rejection. GTM solves this problem by supporting both address schemes simultaneously.

Learn More

For Enterprises

For Service Providers

If you’ve got an IPv6-enabled device, give the participating sites on June 8 a try. While we’ll all learn a lot about IPv6 and any potential pitfalls with a rollout throughout the day just by virtue of the networking that’s always going on under the hood, without client participation it’s hard to gauge whether there’s more work to be done on that front. Even if your client isn’t IPv6 enabled, give these sites a try – they should be supporting both IPv6 and IPv4, and thus you should see no discernable difference when connecting. If you do, let us (or the site you’re visiting) know – it’s important for everyone participating in IPv6 day to hear about any unexpected issues or problems so we can all work to address them before a full IPv6 migration gets under way.

You can also participate on DevCentral:

So give it a try and participate if you can, and make it a great day!


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