MOREnet and IPv6
Internet Protocol (IP) is the network-layer protocol for the Internet. Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) was first deployed in 1981 and has been used almost exclusively since then for determining destinations for Internet packets. IPv4 has 232, or a little more than 4 billion addresses. In 1981, that seemed like plenty, but, as the number of devices on the Internet has grown, the number of new available IPv4 addresses has declined. Today only 7 percent of the more than 4 billion addresses are available to be issued to new Internet providers. At the current rate of depletion, the remaining addresses will be allocated within 12 -18 months. At that time, no new IPv4 addresses will be available.
Fortunately, Internet engineers saw this coming years ago and developed Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) to eventually replace IPv4. IPv6 has 2128 possible addresses, enough addresses for each person in the world to have 48 octillion (i.e., 48 followed by 27 zeros) addresses. IPv6 was initially deployed in 1999, but until recently it has only been used by universities, primarily in research. As the number of available IPv4 addresses has declined, many Internet sites are making their web pages available to IPv6 as well as IPv4 (e.g., Google and Facebook both have IPv6 as well as IPv4 websites). Soon some major websites will only be available through IPv6. Therefore, MOREnet has already taken steps to ensure that its members can get to IPv6 sites when they are needed.
The conversion of all existing IPv4 to IPv6 addresses may take a decade or longer, so MOREnet’s network will accommodate both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic simultaneously until the conversion is completed. All routers on the MOREnet network must be configured to run both IPv4 and IPv6; this configuration is called a “dual-stack” router. All of MOREnet’s backbone routers are currently dual-stack routers so MOREnet is currently capable of passing IPv6 traffic over its backbone and can deliver it to some external sites via the connection to Internet2. By the end of the 2010 calendar year, MOREnet will be able to exchange IPv6 traffic with both of its Internet providers so IPv6 sites worldwide will be available to MOREnet. Most of MOREnet members’ site routers are capable of running dual stacks today, but many of them will require a relatively inexpensive operating system upgrade. Members with 1600, 1700, 2500 and 2600 model routers will require a router upgrade to run dual stacks.
More than a decade ago, MOREnet acquired a large block of IPv4 addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). MOREnet still has an ample supply of IPv4 addresses for members who need to add addresses and for any new members. Most other current Internet service providers also have available numbers, so MOREnet members will be able to reach all World Wide Web sites that they can currently reach for years to come using only IPv4. However, in the near future new sites that do not currently have IPv4 addresses will only be able to obtain IPv6 addresses, so they will not be reachable by members who do not convert to IPv6.
While MOREnet is already preparing for IPv6, members also must make changes to their internal networks to accommodate IPv6. In an effort to conserve IPv4 addresses, network address translation (NAT) was developed. Since there will be no shortage of IPv6 addresses, members can assign each device a public IP address and NAT will no longer be needed. Firewalls will still be important, and many current firewalls do not support IPv6. Vendors have begun addressing this issue. There is no urgent need for members to implement IPv6, but members should begin looking at their equipment (firewalls, routers, servers) to identify any item that is not able to support IPv6 and to be sure that any new equipment purchased is capable of running IPv6. Members can contact their equipment vendors to determine if their equipment is IPv6-ready. MOREnet’s Technical Support can also assist members in determining if their equipment needs upgrading.
A good source for addition information on IPv6 is http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/2007/03/IPv6.ars.
MOREnet has been assigned a large block of IPv6 addresses by ARIN and can now assign a block to any MOREnet member that would like to begin testing IPv6. To obtain a block, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.