IPv6 Day post-mortem: Smooth sailing or hidden gotchas?

Mark Underwood provides the after-action report for the recent IPv6 day. Find out how the trial-run actually went for some of those who participated and what overall participation was like.

June 8, 2011 was World IPv6 Day. So how did it go? As with any assessment, it depends on whom you ask and how you phrase the question.  I decided to ask one of the firms who advertised its participation in the exercise. Meebo is a mature startup (2005) that offers a Web-based communication and discovery service. A user of the chat service for several years, I noticed their announcement posted the day before IPv6 Day. What had they learned from the test? How much preparation had they needed?

In speaking with Meebo for this story, I got the impression that the firm needed no special incentives to participate, but it's also true that Meebo's operations meet one of AT&T's early IPv6 adopter criteria: "A business that relies on marketing and sales communications with Asia should place the highest priority on adopting IPv6."

Meebo's Report from the Front Lines

Following are the highlights of my discussion with Mark Doliner, Lead Developer at Meebo.

Q: What did Meebo do in-house in advance of Test Day to prepare? Sandbox, etc.

A: Planning meetings, configuration changes, a few code changes, some testing.

Q: Did you encounter any DNS issues?

A: We did encounter a bug with one of our DNS providers where one of their servers returned an empty response rather than a CNAME record when the client queried for a AAAA record. We notified them of the issue and they were able to fix it before the end of World IPv6 Day.

Q: Did you invest in any specialized staff training or consultants?

A: No. Meebo's internal development and operational teams handled the changes.

Q: Did you measure how many IPv6 connections were received during Test Day?

A: Yep! It was somewhere in the ballpark of 3 percent of our users. [Ed: This number closely matches the results found elsewhere.]

Q: I saw that you notified users by Meebo note. Did you make other help desk preparations?

A: We briefed our support team on how to assist users who may have experienced problems, and we created an email alias for IPv6-specific questions.

Q: Do you anticipate increases in WAN traffic?

A: We don't anticipate any increase in WAN traffic from the use of IPv6.

Q: Going forward, what will you be measuring to help plan for IPv6 transition?

A: We would like to add a permanent AAAA record for our domains in the future, at which point we'll measure how many users connect over IPv6 vs. IPv4.

Q: Do you see any indirect competitive advantages or is this just a technology compliance initiative?

A: A little of both. We believe that IPv6 is important to the future of the Internet and we want to make sure Meebo remains accessible by everyone as the remaining number of unused IPv4 addresses continues to decline.

Q: Any lessons learned not mentioned?

A: Hurricane Electric's Tunnel Broker service at http://tunnelbroker.net/ is fantastic.

Lessons learned by others

Other participants noticed issues with IPv6 VPN's - for at least one organization, it was a problem that is still being investigated as of 16 June. Also, because much of the IPv6 traffic was non-native (i.e., it was tunneled or encapsulated within IPv4 to ensure compatibility), IPv6 packets were showing slightly slower latency. Some security analysts expressed concerns that the protocol's implementations are relatively immature, and thus more vulnerable to threats.

Despite these concerns, Cisco reported that there was no dramatic uptick in call center call volume.

Good Test? How many sites participated in World IPv6 Day? According to Australia's WatchMouse, only 17% of the top 500 sites supported IPv6 on their main "www" host using a dual stack approach, and 11% supported it on separate IPv6-only sites. Not overwhelming. Is your organization on the list of procrastinators?

This is one case where the U.S. Department of Defense is in the lead. Not surprising since that's where the Net was born. For instance, the Navy's SPAWAR has had years of operating IPv6 on its network, and has worked with vendors to identify problems with specific features. SPAWAR's Ron Broersma, enterprise network security manager and chief information technology division engineer, warned last year that testing of products can be challenging because quality assurance suites were not ready for full IPv6 testing. On the plus side, the Navy was able to transition to IPv6 without additional staff, and was able to deploy IPv6 hardware as part of its routine technology refresh process.

If you want to check current network readiness, try the Internet Society's IPv6 interactive connectivity assessment. My Verizon FIOS readiness for native IPv6 scored an unimpressive 0/10.

By Mark Underwood

Mark Underwood ("knowlengr") works for a small, agile R&D firm. He thinly spreads interests (network manageability, AI, BI, psychoacoustics, poetry, cognition, software quality, literary fiction, transparency) and activations (www.knowlengr.com) from...