Google: IPv6 Is Easy, Inexpensive

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: January 1, 2010

line break image

IETF 76 proves a fitting backdrop for presentation of the first annual Itojun Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary dedication toward the development and deployment of IPv6.

IPv6 is not rocket science. That’s the message that the Google engineers who are the first winners of the Itojun Service Award for outstanding contributions to the development and deployment of IPv6 want to send to the IETF community. Lorenzo Colitti and Erik Kline were presented with the Itojun Service Award at the IETF meeting in Hiroshima, Japan. The two engineers have been leading Google’s IPv6 development efforts for two years.

“We’re up to a handful of people working on IPv6 almost 100 percent of the time,” said Erik, an IPv6 software engineer at Google.

So far, Google supports IPv6 in its Search, Alerts, Docs, Finance, Gmail, Health, iGoogle, News, Reader, Picasa, Maps, Wave, Chrome, and Android products. Google is working on IPv6 for YouTube and Google Voice.

Lorenzo and Erik said the main lesson they’ve learned from Google’s IPv6 development efforts is that it isn’t very hard or very expensive to add support for IPv6 to existing Web services and applications. “As a content provider, you can get an IPv6 service up and running without changing all of the back-end stuff,” Erik said. “You need to audit where IPv4 addresses are stored and used, but you don’t actually have to have deep and 100-percent-pure IPv6 throughout all the stacks. You can deploy IPv6 only where it makes sense.”

The two Google engineers recommend taking a dual-stack approach to IPv6 development and to mirror IPv6 services as closely as possible to existing IPv4 services. “From the networking point of view, you want to use the existing infrastructure,” Lorenzo said. “You want to dual stack everything you can, and design IPv6 as closely as possible to the existing IPv4 infrastructure.”

Google is already seeing some benefits from its IPv6 development efforts, particularly in simpler and potentially lower-cost network management. “We can talk directly to the new LTE handsets and a bunch of IPv6 set-top boxes,” Erik said. “We’ll be able to talk to them directly, as opposed to only seeing them behind application proxies or NAT [network address translation] devices.”

“We actually have had a couple of IPv6-only networks access Google over IPv6,” Lorenzo said. “It’s a more direct path, and it’s better connectivity.”

Lorenzo and Erik said they have not experienced any performance problems with IPv6 and that IPv6 did not cause the widespread outages that were erroneously attributed to it. “The outage that was blamed on IPv6 in May did not, in fact, affect IPv6 and was not due to IPv6,” Lorenzo said.

Erik added that “IPv6 was the one thing that was up and running.”

Lorenzo and Erik haven’t discovered a significant drawback with IPv6 except for the time and effort that it takes to deploy. “It takes time if you have to wait for a vendor box to be fixed. If you find something that’s broken, you have to try to work around the issues. But it’s certainly not rocket science,” Lorenzo said.

IPv6 deployment isn’t expensive, either. “It costs less than you think it would,” Lorenzo said. “You don’t have to spend much money on it if it’s part of your upgrade process.”
The Itojun Service Award honours the memory of Dr. Junichiro “itojun” Hagino, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 37. The award, established by the friends of itojun and administered by the Internet Society, recognizes and commemorates the extraordinary dedication exercised by itojun over the course of IPv6 development.

The Itojun Service Award focuses on pragmatic contributions to the development and deployment of IPv6 in the spirit of serving the Internet. The annual award includes a presentation crystal, a USD 3,000 honorarium, and a travel grant.

This article was posted on 20 January 2010 .