June 2009 Archives

A month ago, I noted some improvements in IPv6 management networks. I have some more positive news for ET's management network.

Our group is moving to a new office location this fall. We'll be out of the Computer Building, across campus from the machine room. So we wanted a small server to keep in the new office, so we ordered a Dell PowerEdge T610, a small tower. It turns out Dell's iDRAC6 remote management card supports IPv6:


If I'd been more up-to-date on DISA's IPv6 compliance list, I wouldn't have been surprised by this.

Sadly, the IPv6 stack is disabled by default. But at least it's there.

Two weeks ago, I noted that Netflix was accessible over IPv6. At the time, it was only their website, not their streaming service. Today, at NANOG 46, Netflix announced that their streaming service now supports IPv6.

Here's a screenshot of my Vista box running IPv6-only and streaming Serenity. Notice that there's no IPv4 address on the box.


(click for larger image.)

There were several interesting bits in Netflix's slidedeck. Their Content Delivery Network, Limelight, announced IPv6 support today. This is huge, as they're the first CDN to announce production IPv6 support. Lack of IPv6 support in CDNs has been cited again and again as a primary factor in not deploying IPv6 on large content sites.

To my mind, there were two big points in Netflix's presentation:

  1. IPv6 is easy. On Netflix's end, the entire deployment, from idea to production service, took two months. Limelight only tasked two engineers to work on IPv6 support.
  2. "Load Balancers are easy." Alleged lack of IPv6 support in loadbalancers is a common canard that's totted out again and again when folks talk about production IPv6 deployments. I was so glad to see a large Internet content provider dispel this myth. Netflix even posted sample config for IPv6 on a Citrix Netscalar in their slidedeck.

Hats off to Netflix and Limelight for this.

Cell phone carriers have seen a huge growth in wireless data usage. The iPhone is selling like hotcakes, and its users generate large amounts of traffic. Not surprisingly, as cellular providers deploy faster network technologies, users generate even more data. Here's data from Verizon:

Customers' demand for more, faster connectivity is pressuring cell carriers to accelerate their timelines for deploying next generation cellular technologies (the so-called "4G" technologies). One of the most promising of these technologies is LTE, Long Term Evolution. LTE will provide much more bandwidth than current 3G cellular system.

Aside from speed, LTE makes a significant change to cellular networks: Voice is now an IP service. With LTE, your handset is a voice over IP (VoIP) device. This eliminates the distinction between the "phone part" of your smartphone (voice calls, SMS, voicemail), and the "Internet part" (email, web, games, etc). In other words, your phone will need an IP address all the time, even just to receive voice calls.

Independently, the number of cellular subscribers is increasing rapdily. According to the United Nations, more than 40% of the world population has a cell phone:

One research company predicts there will be 5.2 billion cellular subscribers, worldwide, by 2011. Another firm estimates 2 billion new cellular subscribers by 2013. If even a small fraction of these are using 4G, e.g. IP-based, communication, it will place substantial strain on IPv4 address reserves.

The problem, of course, is that we're running out of IPv4 addresses. The IANA pool will most likely be depleted by the end of 2010. This has led many people to wonder if LTE deployments will require IPv6. Now we have an answer: Yes.

Verizon has posted specs for any LTE device that will be permitted on its LTE network. IPv6 support is mandated. IPv4 is optional. That's quite a statement, since IPv4 traffic currently dominates the Internet.

A few relevant quotes from Verizon's spec:

"The device shall support IPv6. The device may support IPv4. IPv6 and IPv4 support shall be per the 3GPP Release 8 Specifications (March 2009)". (section 3.2.4.1)

and

"The device shall be assigned an IPv6 address whenever it attaches to the LTE network." (section 3.2.4.2)

IPv4 support appears optional: "If the device supports IPv4, then the device shall be able to support simultaneous IPv6 and IPv4 sessions." (section 3.2.4.4)

Verizon appears to be trying to conserve IPv4 addresses by disallowing long-term address leases: "If the device supports IPv4, the device shall request an IPv4 address if an application using the LTE bearer requests a data connection using an IPv4 address. Once the application is closed, the IPv4 address shall be released by the device". (section 3.2.4.3)

I'm curious how this will affect handset manufacturers. Windows Mobile and Symbian (used in Nokia phones) already support IPv6. Google is working on IPv6 support in Android. The iPhone and Blackberry don't currently support IPv6. I'm curious if version 3.0 of the iPhone OS will add IPv6 support.

Back in Febrary, Netflix got an IPv6 allocation from ARIN. Now, they're running an IPv6 test: http://ipv6.netflix.com/.

Like ipv6.google.com, it's an IPv6-only site.

You can't stream video over IPv6, but you can go to their web site and manage your queue.

That's pretty cool. I hope this spurs more large content providers to start deploying IPv6.