This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Cam Cullen, vice president of global marketing at Procera Networks.
IPv6 continues to be a topic of great interest to ISPs. A survey done by Nominum in conjunction with IPv6 Day shows that Europe is entering a critical phase in dealing with IP address shortages. Europe is served by Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE), and they have a FAQ page that describes how they are allocating IP addresses now that they are down to their last large address block. The survey showed that only 48% of European operators plan to deploy IPv6 by year-end, which brings up the question of how operators will cope with continued expansion and customer acquisition when they have no addresses. Operators throughout the world appear to be adopting a dual strategy within their network deployments to handle the address exhaustion problem.
The first solution is to implement Carrier Grade NAT to extend the use of private addressing inside of their infrastructure. Carrier Grade NAT enables the operator to use private addresses inside their network, and then minimize the amount of public addresses that they use by “multiplexing” multiple users onto a smaller number of public addresses. Carrier Grade NAT can effectively delay the need to implement IPv6 if a scalable solution is chosen, as tens of thousands of sessions can theoretically be multiplexed onto a single IP address, dramatically reducing the consumption of IP addresses.
The second solution is to implement formal support for IPv6. Although this sounds easy to do, the challenge for a full implementation is formidable, as it requires equipment, OSS, and BSS changes to effectively deploy a native IPv6 network. The benefit for a full IPv6 deployment for ISPs is that they would then have a vastly increased address space for subscriber growth, and a better chance for full network visibility (even at the CPE level for fixed broadband) by handing out unique addresses to all devices and eliminating most NAT functions in the network.
Most major content providers are now offering their content over IPv6, which paves the way for a fully enabled IPv6 Internet. World IPv6 Day in 2012 showed that a lot of progress has been made over the past year, and Procera’s snapshot of IPv6 showed that some of the most popular sites on the Internet (Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon) are all fully available over IPv6 networks. File sharing is still a high percentage of IPv6 traffic, as many file sharing clients support Teredo, an IPv6 tunneling protocol, that allowed the applications to hide from solutions designed to manage file sharing traffic that did not support IPv6 (although most finally do support IPv6 traffic inspection). In 2011, 95% of IPv6 traffic seen on some consumer broadband networks was Teredo-based file sharing, but that ratio is steadily declining on IPv6 networks as people migrate to native IPv6 sites and applications. Google now reports that almost 1% of their users access their sites over IPv6, which represents a huge growth over even the beginning of 2012.
Network operators must determine what solution that they will select to add support for IPv6. Consumer device usage is exploding, and even with some of the highly scalable Carrier Grade NAT solutions available on the market today, eventually operators will need a better solution. A full IPv6 deployment offers significant financial and operational benefits, especially in providing full device-level visibility for network analytics. IPv6 is coming, and although it can be delayed, it cannot be denied forever.