Why People Haven’t Adopted IPv6 (And Why You Should Learn It Anyway)


Why People Haven’t Adopted IPv6 (And Why You Should Learn It Anyway)

If you haven’t learned IPv6 yet, well, you’re not the only one. In December 2016, IPv6 (as we know it today) turned 18 years old. Children who were in the womb when RFC 2460 was being drafted are now old enough to vote, get married, and purchase firearms in some states.

In honor of IPv6’s 18th birthday, allow me to share my theories on why people have been so slow to adopt it. And why you still should consider learning it.

The “Lame name” theory

IPv6 terminology makes it sound like a new version of IPv4 and it’s not. It’s a totally different protocol with a similar name. If you’re familiar with the confusion between Java and JavaScript, you know what I’m talking about. People who set out to learn IPv6 are disappointed when they find out it’s almost nothing like IPv4.

The “Let’s split DHCP in half and spread its most popular functions across two protocols” theory

DHCP for IPv4 can provide clients with IP addresses, DNS servers, default gateways, TFTP servers, and pretty much anything else. DHCPv6 doesn’t have an option for providing a default gateway. If you want to push a default gateway to clients, you have to use SLAAC.

The “all things to all people, places, animals, plants” theory

IPv4 has only a few address types that anyone actually uses. Colloquially, they’re public, private (RFC 1918 addresses like 192.168.1.1), and multicast (which includes broadcast). IPv6 has approximately one zillion different address types, including unique-local, link-local, unspecified, and global unicast. Although there are technical justifications for some of these, the plethora of address types makes no sense to anyone who doesn’t deeply understand why “layer 2” is even in the IT lexicon.

The “IPv4 apocalypse” theory

We’ve all heard the constant chicken-little talk about how we have to move to IPv6 yesterday or the internet will die. Driving this is the myth that all IPv4 addresses are gone. They’re not, and the U.S. government is sitting on tens of thousands it’s never going to use. What really happened was that in 2011, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned the last of its available IP address space to regional internet registries (RIRs) which are responsible for doling out addresses. But the IPv4 addresses didn’t just go away. They still exist, and many of them are unused and can be reassigned.

[amazon_link asins=’1430263709,1587144778′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’benpiperbloginline-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bffc05c4-fdfc-11e7-b8ee-6d4ab47091e8′]

The “NAT is a tool of the devil” theory

If you ever want to have fun, go on any IT forum and ask, “Why do we need IPv6 when we have NAT?” Actually, don’t. That would be trolling. But if you were to ask that question, you’d probably get a few responses hating on IPv4 NAT as a tool of the devil, which IPv6 will save us from… except it does NAT, too.

The “Why do I need both again?” theory

Implementing IPv6 almost always requires a multihomed (dual-stack) implementation, which people figured out about 30 years ago was a bad idea with IPv4 because it confuses everybody. IT admins translate this as, “More work for me.”

The “Because we can” theory

There are enough IPv6 addresses for every cell in your body to have its own internet. Seriously? This, like NAT, is another non-reason to adopt it. Yes, it’s cool that I can give my Uncle Milton’s ant farm its own Internet. But as far as business justification goes, nope.

Why you might want to learn IPv6 (hint: money)

Although it’s been poorly marketed, it’s still worth learning. In fact, I believe in IPv6 so strongly that I’ve created several Pluralsight courses on configuring and troubleshooting it.

Here are three big reasons to consider adding it to your set of skills:

  • It’s like a sports team. The big boys are rooting for it. I’m talking about Cisco, Juniper, ISPs, Google, et alia. They want to see it win, and they’ll pay to make it happen. You can be on the receiving end of some of those payments.
  • The confusion and complexity around IPv6 has made experts that much more valuable to companies who have already invested in new infrastructure.
  • If you know IPv4, IPv6 isn’t that hard to learn once you realize that it’s a distinct protocol and not a new version of IPv4.

For further IPv6 learning, check out my Practical Networking course.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 thoughts on “Why People Haven’t Adopted IPv6 (And Why You Should Learn It Anyway)

  1. This is a very interesting article about the IPv6.

    A few years ago, we accidentally ventured into studying the IPv4 address pool exhaustion challenge, perhaps due to the curiosity from our telephony background. We now have submitted a proposal, called EzIP (phonetic for Easy IPv4) to IETF:
    https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-chen-ati-adaptive-ipv4-address-space-03

    EzIP will not only resolve IPv4 address shortage issues, but also largely mitigate cyber security vulnerabilities, plus open up new possibilities for the Internet. These should relieve the urgency to move onto the IPv6. Originally, our efforts were guided by two regularly updated worldwide statistics:

    https://ams-ix.net/technical/statistics/sflow-stats/ether-type
    https://stats.labs.apnic.net/ipv6

    So, we thought that the initial EzIP markets would be emerging regions and rural areas of developed countries where assignable IPv4 addresses are in short supply. A recent article about the Internet activities by US Federal Agencies provides a surprising perspective:

    https://dyn.com/blog/ipv6-adoption-still-lags-in-federal-agencies/

    It concludes that the IPv6 adoption is moving at “a glacial pace”. This seems to imply that the entire market for alternatives to the IPv6 approach, such as the EzIP, is now open. The general public should be equally informed of this kind of possibilities, instead of being led by the industrial interests.

    Feedback and comments are very much appreciated.

    Abe (2018-06-23 16:00)

  2. I have a stupid college assignment about how IPv6 is the future and all that jazz, and this article literally made my day… we need to clone whoever wrote this article and put one in every city. 10/10 would LOL again.

  3. I’ve had only 1 client in the last year that was getting a IPv6 address from the ISP and it was a home user that didn’t particularly care.

  4. How many times have you read a comparison of the IPv6 address space to the number of grains of sand multiplied by the total number of freckles on all the ginger people in the world?

  5. This is a nice informative and entertaining post. However, you said, “What really happened was that in 2011, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) assigned the last of its available IP address space to regional internet registries (RIRs) which are responsible for doling out addresses.”

    It’s actually IANA who is responsible for assigning addresses to the RIRs, of which ARIN is one. You can see the official “Free Pool of IPv4 Address Space Depleted” announcement at https://www.nro.net/ipv4-free-pool-depleted

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*