Into the Future with IPv6

2011 may not be the year when IPv4 addresses finally run out, but the reserves are running low enough to warrant large IPv6 transition projects. Access providers and domain hosters will see the effects first because the growth of their businesses depends directly on the supply of new IP addresses. Interesting times for network guys like me.

Big players on the German market like Telekom and Vodafone are going to get their access networks IPv6-ready in 2011. This won’t have much effect until home routers also support IPv6 (only the latest models do), but in 2-3 years time large parts of the “last mile” will be ready. Most customers won’t have much incentive, but at least I’ll be doing my part and upgrade my network equipment.

Last week, the network admins at my company activated IPv6 router advertisements for our office network. I was pretty excited when ifconfig(8) showed a global IPv6 address and connected to heise.de, a German IT news site that already publishes a AAAA DNS record. My colleagues didn’t quite share my excitement though. Apparently, our internal networks are mostly IPv6-ready. However, there’s no need to upgrade our backend systems since they only need private addresses. Apart from that, our admins are reluctant to activate IPv6 for production systems without proper security concepts and firewall configurations.

Operating systems support IPv6 surprisingly well. My Ubuntu system at work needed no extra configuration and just worked. The server applications that I need for my daily work (Apache, Tomcat, Hadoop, sshd) listen on IPv6 sockets and thus support connections from both IPv4 and IPv6 clients. Client applications are a different story, but at least Firefox worked without problems.

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