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IPv6: Do as I Say or Do as I Do?

How important is it for a vendor, service provider or integrator to be using a service or technology that it is pushing on its clients?

When Voice over IP (VoIP) came out Cisco began a gigantic push, having its salespersons pitch it to anyone and everyone on their client list. But Cisco had not yet deployed VoIP within its own corporate network. It was still making use of traditional voice systems from vendors that today it probably considers competitors. Many people on the receiving end of a sales pitch recognized this, or at least were prudent enough to ask the salesperson if Cisco was using its own VoIP products. When the answer came back, “uh, no, not yet, but it’s something we are looking at”, skepticism was immediate. How could a major vendor be pushing a technology that it did not use itself? It would be like finding out that Bill Gates uses a Mac as his home computer (as I’m sure many of you think he should!)

Cisco quickly realized that in order for it to be able to talk the talk, it first had to walk the walk. So they went ahead and deployed VoIP throughout their corporate infrastructure. How much that strategy actually contributed to sales of its VoIP product line is impossible to tell, but it certainly didn’t hurt and it definitely lent credibility to their sales pitch.

Is it possible that some of the resistance to IPv6 is for similar reasons? It may be too soon to tell, but if an IT director sees that neither its service providers nor hardware vendors have deployed IPv6 internally or in their service offerings, they may be less inclined to deploy it themselves. It at least gives the IT director an out to defer the decision and stall.

Note: Cisco and VoIP is just an example. This is in no way a shot at Cisco. They have long since deployed IPv6 in their products, and the feature comes in IOS free of charge as long as you get the right version. They have not created a specific IPv6 product line that they are pushing on their customers. Whether or not they have IPv6 deployed internally is really immaterial.

VoIP was able to make headway because it had a tangible business case regardless of whether Cisco or any other vendor was using it or not. The business case was easy to illustrate, one based on the cost savings of toll bypass, converged networks, reduced infrastructure and lower operational expense for staff and hardware maintenance. All that before you even got to the additional features VoIP could provide. Furthermore, VoIP had an advantage because it is not just a technology but also an application, and one that is easy to speak to because voice used by everyone every day.

The business case for IPv6 has been much harder to define. To cite an overused cliché, there still is no “killer application” that is only supported by IPv6 and causes decision makers to say, “yeah, we need that, let’s move forward.” Whereas voice is an application, IPv6 is really just an underlying technology that is used by applications.

Without that killer application and compelling business case, those that deploy IPv6 right now are the innovators, showing vision and ambition to be the pioneers. A few companies such as Bechtel are integrating IPv6 into their own corporate network. In Bechtel’s case, it is doubtful that their motive is purely because they see IPv6 as solving internal networking requirements, though they will undoubtedly benefit. It is more likely a strategic move because they have business units in markets that will be the first adopters of IPv6, such as the U.S. Government, wireless carriers, and companies the build control systems and deploy sensor networks. Either way, Bechtel has made it a strategy to be an early adopter. They are setting an example, gaining experience and paving the way for others to follow. It will greatly help their case when they sit down with their customers who are interested in IPv6.

But most folks are standing on the sidelines. Some are looking to the U.S. Government mandate to see if agencies truly follow through with IPv6 deployment, or if they do just enough to pass the mandate. Major announcements by Sprint and Verizon to implement IPv6 will generate some interest in their customer base and the Internet community in general. These are critical examples that others can cite to back up their own strategy when the time comes.

So how important is it for vendors to use their own products? One would hope that the head of GM drives a GM-made car, that the president of Marriott stays at one of their hotels while traveling, and the head of McDonald’s is not seen dining at Burger King, except maybe undercover for reconnaissance purposes!

Technology is a bit different though. You really can’t expect those that manufacture or sell certain products to automatically have a requirement or desperate need themselves. Companies that manufacture fighter jets or tanks don’t need them for their own purposes. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but I’m sure you can think of others. Nevertheless, if someone showed up at your door selling aluminum siding, wouldn’t you expect that they use the same siding on their own home, else what would that say about their product?

Overall, it makes for a much more compelling story if you are able show a customer firsthand experience. It demonstrates credibility if you can describe how the product or technology fulfilled one of your own requirements. It is also beneficial to the customer if you can share the challenges you experienced along the way. Having deployed it to solve your own needs gives the customer some level of comfort that you are not just trying to make a sale but that you actually believe what you are saying. The example you set speaks volumes.

At the moment, IPv6 is not being sold that hard. Few are pushing it so much as to doubt their veracity. But in about a year or so that may change, and it will be interesting to see how many vendors and service providers are actually walking the walk.

By Dan Campbell, President, Millennia Systems, Inc.

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jeroen  –  Feb 11, 2008 9:37 AM

Actually there is a killer application and you mentioned it already a couple of times in your application: VoIP.

Or did you get that nice VoIP hardware box working behind a NAT!? ;)

Yes, with tricks like having a local proxy (eg an Asterisk which talks to the outside world using a public address or using TCP) and using tricks like STUN this can partially be made possible, but it is a hassle and requires a box that you should not be needing when you have true end-to-end connectivity (or you are able to get enough addresses ;)

That is the problem that IPv6 solves: more address space.

And effectively it is also the sole problem it solves, as all the others can be and mostly have been backported to IPv4 already.

As the largest usage of “The Internet” is actually that part called by a lot of people “T3h Intarw3b”, they solely rely on HTTP and servers which have a public IP address. They themselves can’t really care about the fact that they can’t be reached as they are behind a NAT, and most even see it as ‘security’.

The moment you want to make real use of your IP address though you either need to get a nice public IPv4 address or easier, get an IPv6 one.

I except this year to have a high rise in IPv6 deployment and usage.

Of course http://www.ipv6experiment.com/ is also going live soon (and I heared a whisper that it is not only going to host the naughty content but also getting content that is actually usable by everyone. ;)

The Famous Brett Watson  –  Feb 11, 2008 11:46 AM

VoIP on IPv6 allows you to talk to other VoIP on IPv6 users, which leaves it far from “killer app” status at this point in time.

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