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IPv6 for the Rest of Us

IPv6 deployment is in a chicken and egg situation. On the one hand, there is no willingness from ISPs and commodity DNS router manufacturers to include IPv6 support in their infrastructure or equipment because “there is no demand”. On the other hand, there is no demand because the average Joe Blow could not care less if he accesses a web site under IPv4 or IPv6. It should just work. The equipment and infrastructure should adapt transparently.

One of these days, when there will be IPv6-only web sites, Joe Blow will call his ISP to complain he cannot access them. This may happen sooner that you think. The North American Internet Registry (ARIN) has issued an advisory to alert the community that it will no more be in a position to allocate IPv4 addresses in the near future and strongly advises companies and ISPs to look at IPv6 instead.

What we users can do is to stop waiting for the industry to get its act together and work around its limitations.

Most consumer OSes these days support IPv6, either natively like MacOSX, Linux or Windows Vista or as an add-on, like Windows XP. If you have the traditional setup with a computer connected to the Internet through a DSL router, the latter is being assigned a dynamic IP address. Your computer in turn is being assigned an IP address by the router, typically out of a private address space (per RFC 1918).

What we need now is a way to tunnel trough the hostile IPv4 environment to connect to an IPv6 Internet. The specifications are defined in RFC 4380 and nicknamed Teredo. There is an implementation for Unix-like operating systems called Miredo. And for those of you who are uncomfortable editing Makefiles and compiling source code, the good news is that there are pre-packaged versions for MacOSX and Ubuntu Feisty (just type “apt-get install miredo”. You should have the universe repository active).

I tested both and they work out of the box. I am actually editing this post through an IPv6 tunnel over a straight IPv4 ADSL connection. Pretty amazing.

I did not test the MS Windows implementation. However, since Microsoft wrote the specs, I suppose it should be quite easy to set up there, too. Some tips are available at the IPv6 Task Force website and Microsoft’s own site.

What does that bring to you ? Well, first you will be considered a certified geek by your neighbourhood. More seriously, not much right now. What I notice is actually that my connection is slowing down. This may be due to the fact that tunnelling a protocol through another one is never efficient. Also, the peering agreements between backbone operators are not as optimal as they are in the IPv4 world. But at least, I am ready for the future.

By Patrick Vande Walle, All around Internet governance troublemaker

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Michele Neylon  –  Jun 5, 2007 1:32 PM

If ARIN policed their IPv4 space more carefully they wouldn’t have as many issues with IP space ....

wolfkeeper  –  Jun 7, 2007 12:24 AM

You can have multiple fixed IP addresses on IPv6, so that at least is an advantage, whereas many ISPs typically can only provide one under IPv4.

McTim  –  Jun 7, 2007 5:22 AM

Hello Michelle,

Michele Neylon said:

If ARIN policed their IPv4 space more carefully they wouldn’t have as many issues with IP space ....

Your one sentence contains two major false premises:

1. ARIN has no “policing” function. This is not in their charter. The RIRs provide uniqueness in IP registration.  While they do promote conservation in their poicies, this is not the overriding goal.

2. they don’t really have “issues” with their IP space.  They have lots of addresses to allocate still.  IPv4 is a much more finite address space then IPv6.  It will run out, the only question is when.  The pre-cursors to the RIRs (IANA/InterNic) gave out IP blocks in a classful (with hindsight we say wasteful) way.  Even if these large blocks had not been given out, that means just a few more years until IPv4 exhaustion.

dave hughes  –  Jul 6, 2007 8:04 PM

Hello Michelle,

Please forgive my ignorance, but would Miredo solve an IPv6 request to an IPv4 host? It would seem your ‘tunneling’ notion would be workable for ‘known’ IPv6 host to ‘known’ IPv6 host connectivity - possibly a unique IPv6 only DNS table or some such?

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