How to Prepare for the Coming Changes in the Internet

Everyone seems to believe that to move to IPv6, you must first dump IPv4, the current standard used by most of the Internet. John Day, author of Patterns in Network Architecture, thinks otherwise. Here he tells you how to move forward by changing only those things that actually need changing.


Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, things don't sound so good. We have been hearing about the coming of IPv6 for more than a decade. But the arguments for it have always been a bit vague. All the reasons offered seemed very grand. They have all been something about preserving the "spirit of the Internet" - whatever that is.

But not many of the reasons have been focused on the bottom line. In July 2007, Randy Bush of Internet Initiative Japan and a proponent of IPv6, described the direction of IPv6 by posing this multiple-choice question:

"No transition plan. Declared victory before the hard part started. No long-term transition plan. No realistic estimation of costs. No support for the folks on the front lines. Victory will be next month. This describes: a) The war in Iraq; b) IPv6; c) DNSSec; or d) all of the above."

Now they tell us we have to do it because the government says so. Wasn't that the argument for OSI? We are supposed to give everything a globally visible address to preserve "the spirit of the Internet"? What is this faith-based engineering?

In his comments, Randy Bush then went on to list several things - myths really - about IPv6. Here is what he suggested, followed by my comments in parentheses:

Myth #1: "IPv4 is running out." (No, it will be around a long time.)

Myth #2: "IPv6 eliminates NATs." (They wish. Nothing wrong with NATs that a complete architecture wouldn't fix.)

Myth #3: "IPv6 reduces routing load." (Quite the contrary.)

Myth #4: "Transition eases routing." (What transition?)

Myth #5: "IPv6 space is infinite." (Half the bits are already gone - only 64 left.)

Myth #6: "IPv6 has better security." (Has the same as IPv4.)

Myth #7: "IPv6 increases battery life." (This tells us more about marketing than reality.)

Myth #8: "Routers fully support IPv6." (But not fast. Only in software; no hardware help.)

Myth #9: "No static numbering." (Transition?)

Myth #10: "IPv6 is deployed." (In your dreams.)

Myth #11: "IPv6 will replace IPv4." (At this rate, not in my grandson's lifetime - and I'm still waiting for grandchildren.)

And then there are at least five problems that Randy Bush doesn't even bring up or only alludes to. First of all, Microsoft's transition scheme has already run into scaling problems. Second, there are potential route calculation instabilities inherent in IPv6. Third, there is an inevitability of router table growth due to no multi-homing solution being available (only more patches). Fourth, Moore's Law won't bail us out this time (i.e., this is a problem we have known about for 35 years and the solution was published 25 years ago). And fifth, there will be a Rube Goldberg-like mobility scheme caused by using half an architecture. Gosh, I can hardly wait! Paradise truly awaits! Not.