World IPv6 Launch: It’s Happening!

By: Erin McGann

Date: October 6, 2012

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The World IPv6 Launch on 6 June 2012 saw leading web sites, Internet service providers (ISPs), and home-router equipment manufacturers turn on IPv6 by default. At IETF 84 the Internet Society (ISOC) brought together content providers, access providers, and Internet measurement experts to discuss the launch, and to share their findings.

Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer for the Internet Society, kicked off the panel by acknowledging the amazing and collaborative industry event that was World IPv6 Launch. “For anyone who was doubtful that we could actually do anything collaborative and outside of business interests anymore, this was good proof [that we can],” she said.

Mat Ford, technology program manager at the Internet Society, organizes and leads aspects of ISOC’s work in deployment of open standards. Presenting some of the high-level and measurable outcomes from the event, Ford dispelled some of the criticisms around IPv6 deployment: “[The thing] I really want to emphasize from these statistics is that although there are a lot of research networks in this list, they are not at the top. The networks at the top are major broadband ISPs in France, North America, and interestingly, in Romania. For a long time the criticism for IPv6 deployment has been ‘it’s only happening in research networks and it’s certainly not happening in North America’, and that is simply not true anymore.”

For web sites, Ford found that the number of web sites serving IPv6 spiked last year on World IPv6 Day in 2011 and then dropped away, but in 2012, there was both a much larger number of web sites participating and a sustained response afterwards. “This was a truly global event, and a major step change in the levels of IPv6 deployment in access networks and content providers around the world.”

George Michaelson, senior research scientist at the Regional Internet Registry serving the Asia-Pacific region, captured data on IPv6 deployment through clever use of online advertising tools. Embedding Flash code in online adverts allowed them to obtain measurements from a large and diverse sample of users that would have been very hard to reach otherwise.

“The distribution of IPv6 to end users is really quite variable by economy,” he explained. “It is not as straightforward as saying the G8 are doing it and it’s the other economies that aren’t. It really depends on the nature of your economic investment, timelines for your mobile plant upgrade, broadband upgrade, what kind of machines [end users] are buying, what their cycles are—it’s not an even distribution.”

Michaelson’s data turned up some surprising results, even within North America. “The numbers in Canada [show] an upward trend, but it’s somewhat slow. But if you compare that to America, for instance, this is a really compelling story of continuous uptake rate. This is a good story. I think you’re used to us standing up and saying ‘woe is me, woe is me, [IP]v6 isn’t happening.’ It is happening.”

He cited the estimated IPv6-user population figures, including 3 million in the United States, 2.3 million in China, 2 million in Japan and 2 million in France, as examples.

John Brzozowski, Comcast’s distinguished engineer and chief architect for IPv6, noted that to achieve approximately two percent of Comcast’s active customers using IPv6, they needed to deploy IPv6 on approximately half of their network. Approximately 70 percent of these customers are using a computer connected directly to a cable modem; 30 percent are using home routers.

“One of the things we feel is important to highlight here is that if we understand what devices are not using v6, we can then use that as an opportunity to have feedback here in this community and to also work more with consumer electronics,” explained Brzozowski. “One of the things we feel is pretty significant is that while there is a growing momentum for [IP]v6 across consumer electronics in the form of home networking, the other part of consumer electronics—your televisions, your Rokus—needs some tender loving care as far as [IP]v6 is concerned.”

Brzozowski highlighted some of the services that represent the bulk of their IPv6 traffic, namely Netflix, YouTube, and the iTunes App Store. Approximately six percent of Olympics streaming over YouTube to Comcast customers was over IPv6.

Lorenzo Colitti is currently the technical lead for Google’s IPv6 efforts, which includes everything from performance metrics to Android development to government outreach. For World IPv6 Launch, Google helped participants prepare, published data, and built a tool that tracked deployments.

“We measure 2.5x growth of IPv6 traffic over the last year, and if anything it’s accelerating—this is on top of [IP]v4 growth, of course,” Colitti explained. “It’s basically 2.5x per year that [IP]v6 is gaining compared to [IP]v4, if you extrapolate that, as the pointy-haired boss-types like to do, you get to 50 percent of traffic in about six years, or 100 percent in seven years.”

For Google, a major focus for World IPv6 Launch was also tracking IPv6 breakage, to ensure bad user experience was kept to a minimum. Colitti pointed out some networks are responding to IPv6 by filtering AAAA records at their DNS servers, and that this was not a tactic they recommended. “The underlying problem doesn’t go away, it’s just masked. Once you mask the problem it becomes very difficult to measure it, and once you can’t measure it, you don’t know when to turn the filtering off. It’s hard to get out of it.”

Google tracks how many search queries there are per second, and on World IPv6 Launch, they witnessed an increase of 75 percent of queries over IPv6.

“One key message from our perspective as a content provider is that we have seen deployments in every part of the world, on every access technology, and these are real deployments,” said Colitti. “We’ve seen a real impact on the whole ecosystem—we’ve seen web sites, we’ve seen router vendors, phone vendors, and home router vendors actually enable IPv6, turn it on by default and leave it on. So the next time somebody says to you ‘I need the IETF to standardize this otherwise I can’t deploy it’, think carefully whether that’s true, or whether there are other ways to solve the deployment problem. The thing is, all these networks beg to differ. They say that, actually, IPv6 is deployable right now.”

Lee Howard, director of network technology for Time Warner Cable, has primary responsibility for the cable company’s IPv6 deployment. He described the relationship between the one percent of their users actively using IPv6 and the scale of their deployment as the product of multiplying fractions. “Half of cable modems have to be enabled to get to one percent of users. Here’s why: because those cable modems are evenly distributed across your entire footprint, or close enough to evenly distributed.”

He went on to explain the breakdown further: “Only about half of operating systems in residential networks support IPv6, plus or minus five or ten percent. That half is everything that’s not Windows XP… Therefore you have to enable so many devices in order to get down to that half of devices that are not Windows XP, in order to get something that can actually use the IPv6. So we’re still multiplying fractions here—50 percent times 30 percent times 50 percent is down to a fairly small number.

“As John [Brzozowski] pointed out, you have to look at the people who are directly connecting a device into their cable modem, and that’s about 15 percent. So that takes us to down to a very, very small number,” he said.

“One percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but since you’re multiplying so many fractions, it is actually a huge roll-out. It represents a huge deployment in any network in order to get that [many users] actually using IPv6.”

Erik Nygren is chief architect in Akamai’s platform infrastructure engineering organization, and leads their IPv6 initiative. “On our network right now, we have IPv6 in more than 53 countries around the world and in 600 of our locations.”

Nygren discussed the diff erent factors at play when trying to calculate IPv6 growth, including how much content is available, how many clients have network connectivity over IPv6 and whether there is browser or operating system support.

“When we combined all of these factors together,” he explained, “what we saw was very signifi cant growth as part of the World IPv6 Launch. In particular, the number of IPv6 addresses we saw year over year between 2011 and 2012 rose over 400 fold, up to 19 million unique IPv6 addresses. The number of requests we served, even just in that 24-hour period of World IPv6 Launch, was more than three billion requests over IPv6. Th is combination of more content and more clients does mean more traffic. Although a lot of these [fi gures] are from taking a bunch of small fractions and multiplying them together, one side effect is that … taking one of those small fractions and doubling it means you’ve doubled the overall aggregate number.”

Nygren broke down where clients are coming from and how they are connecting, noting that there are some areas of the world where there is more 6to4 than native IPv6. “One of the biggest changes from a network perspective over the past year is that some big, top, American ISPs came into the fray and really started making IPv6 available to their end user subscribers. Among the top six U.S. networks, 86 percent of the IPv6 requests we saw came from those. Verizon Wireless alone, with their Android LTE devices, was over a third of the IPv6 traffic during that 24-hour window.”

Addressing the pervasive view that IPv6 was something that only occurred in Asia or in Europe, Nygren pointed out these numbers prove that’s not the case anymore.

“One of the top questions we get from content provider sites is. ‘When I make my site available over IPv6, what percentage of requests will come to my site over IPv6?’” Nygren explained that the answer varied greatly depending on audience. “If you have an audience of global consumer end users, you’re going to have less IPv6 preference, somewhere in the half a percent, to 1.5 percent range. If you’re at the other end, a particular country with lots of IPv6, or you’re a router manufacturer, you may have an IPv6 preference rate that’s in the two to three percent range, or even higher.”

Nygren highlighted a dramatic shift in the overall IPv6 preference rate in the United States: in the past year, for a sample of consumer web sites [the preference rate] has gone up by a factor of nine. He credited this jump to a number of big U.S. ISPs coming into play. “As this continues to grow in the United States, as other networks keep turning this on, as more content becomes available over the next few years, hopefully we’ll get to the point where IPv6 be-comes the dominant Internet protocol.”

Leslie Daigle posed the question to the entire panel of whether someone with IPv6-only connectivity could now say they were on the Internet, or, if not, when could that statement be made. Although several panelists agreed that point had not been reached yet, Leslie went on to explain that if she had asked that question last year, “eyes would have rolled back in their sockets,” and the response would have been different—as the response will be very different next year. “We’re going through the ugly part of transition,” she commented.

Several panelists discussed the possibilities of deploying IPv6 and supporting IPv4 through a legacy, backwards-compatibility approach, described by Colitti as “IPv4 by carrier pigeon.” It was acknowledged that this would be easier for some networks than others to manage.

Russ Housley closed the session by saying, “On Friday morning Vancouver time, the IETF web server was not available because there was a denial-of-service attack against our server. For the first time, all of the traffic taking that server down, was IPv6.” The room erupted with cheering and applause.