"Incentive payments and commercial benefits justify implementing IPv6"
First IPv6-only services highlighted
IPv6 needs to be promoted in as many ways as possible. "The Internet.nl portal is pushing providers to offer IPv6. The portal enables users to test their own sites and connections, and leads to them telling their access and hosting service providers that they expect IPv6 to be part of a full-featured internet connection. Then, since the start of last year, we've had SIDN's financial incentive scheme, under which registrars are paid a rebate on IPv6-enabled domain names. There's more and more pressure on providers to score 100 per cent," says Xander Slootweg, who sits on the Board of the Registrars' Association (RA) and chairs the RA's Technical Committee, as well being CEO of cloud provider Internet Today and Oxxa, which provides hosting services through resellers.
Xander Slootweg, CEO InternetToday
Use of IPv6 is increasing, but very slowly. This month, global user-side adoption finally passed the 30 per cent mark. However, the Netherlands is languishing on an embarrassing 22 per cent, and further adoption has almost come to a halt.
No sense of urgency
"It's now almost impossible to get hold of new IPv4 addresses in the Netherlands or anywhere else in Europe," says Slootweg. "However, most players here have such large stocks of IPv4 addresses that there's little pressure to get to grips with IPv6. There's no sense of urgency." The combination of large IPv4 address stocks and the availability of (CG)NAT for the user side and SNI for the hosting side means that, twenty years after its introduction, IPv6 use is still not the norm. "My companies started using IPv6 ten years ago, albeit mainly for competitive reasons, and because our engineers enjoy working with the latest tech. Our most recent IPv6 project involved looking on our PowerDNS server for zones that don't have AAAA records, but are the subject of queries. That combination of circumstances results in slow connections, or failure to set up a connection at all. So we've worked with the relevant clients to add appropriate IPv6 glue records. There are now only fifteen problem cases left, out of the several hundred that we started with."
Since the early days described by Slootweg, various other reasons for using IPv6 have come into play. First, a new generation of smart devices that don't have IPv4 addresses is coming onto the market. Second, some mobile operators are providing large numbers of users with IPv6-only connections. Indeed, the first IPv6-only services are coming onto the market as well, pitched at price-conscious buyers. For example, the infrastructure underpinning the hosting services provided by PCextreme is exclusively IPv6-based, and the company already has its own IPv6-only clients. According to CTO Wido den Hollander, PCextreme plans to launch a true IPv6-only cloud proposition early next year.
One thing we no longer see is the use of IP addresses for abuse prevention. With CGNAT, end users are hidden behind two NAT layers, making it very hard to ascertain their identities. "When a particular address is identified as the source of an attack, even the police can't do anything with that information," says Slootweg. "And you can't simply block the address, because that's likely to imply blocking maybe hundreds of innocent users. The switch to IPv6 won't help in that regard, however: the IPv6 address space is so vast that blacklisting is impractical. "There are more IPv6 addresses than there are grains of sand in the entire world. So we have to get smart. By deploying Anomaly and Intrusion Detection Systems, for example. It's no longer a question of who's doing something, but what's being done."
The financial incentives that SIDN offers for IPv6 adoption are adequate, Slootweg believes. "The incentives don't cover the full cost, but in combination with the commercial benefits they are enough to justify implementing IPv6. It's also been very helpful that the most popular control panels – such as cPanel and DirectAdmin – have all implemented IPv6 in recent years. Previously, you had to bolt on IPv6 yourself." "SIDN could perhaps try making technical support available as well. IPv6 is complicated and requires additional expertise. Consequently, its rollout has the potential to cause availability problems for clients. That issue isn't being taken seriously enough. However, SIDN is addressing the situation the right way. This year, SIDN teamed up with the RA to organise three IPv6 workshops." Each workshop lasted a full day and provided registrars with an excellent opportunity to hone their IPv6 expertise.
A pool of IPv6 specialists
"Another option is a top-down approach, like the one that SIDN adopted for DNSSEC," continues Slootweg. "As part of its DNSSEC promotion programme, SIDN paid Kees Monshouwer to help us implement DNSSEC. Although some wholesale hosters pass on their incentive-scheme savings to their resellers, we use ours in a similar way to help our resellers. Maybe we could set up a pool of IPv6 specialists, and split the cost with SIDN." "We need to persuade those resellers that don't use our hosting services to start supporting IPv6, and we need to help them with the implementation. We're working our way down from the biggest to the smallest." Slootweg nevertheless stresses that his companies don't want to pressurise resellers. "Some resellers simply aren't in a position to adopt IPv6. As well as evangelising, we should be looking at the reasons why a provider doesn't offer IPv6."