One reason why IPv6 adoption has been so slow is that everyone is waiting for everyone else to adopt it first. If that’s the reason for your own company’s sluggishness, it’s time to reconsider, because important online partners are already using the network address protocol: Google is leading the way, by offering its services over IPv6.
When you were a kid, all the other kids would head down to the beach, creek, or swimming pool. Even though the purpose was to go swimming, there would be a minute or two before anyone would jump in. Everyone kept waiting for someone else to take that first frigid plunge. It’s the same with businesses getting their feet wet with IPv6. No one wants to be the first to jump in. Well, now you don’t have to, since one of the biggest kids on the block, Google, has already jumped into IPv6.
Google, which saw the need to start moving to IPv6, began its implementation in March 2008. By May of the same year, Google started offering Google Search over IPv6 at http://ipv6.google.com. (Unless you have an IPv6 connection to the Internet this site will not work for you.)
Since then, with Google network engineers Lorenzo Colitti and Erik Kline leading the way, Google has started offering more services over IPv6. It’s not been easy. As Steinar H. Gunderson, a Google open-source and IPv6 developer explained at the Google’s IPv6 Implementers Conference in June 2010, when trying to retro-fit network programs for IPv6 (PDF), your software should “Start listening on IPv6, then send IPv6 data. Watch it crash. Fix, repeat until it looks OK.”
In short, they learned, if you don’t want your company to have real fits come the day that you start implementing IPv6, have your internal programmers start working on in-house software now and start insisting that your ISVs (independent software vendors) deliver IPv6 ready software.
That advice is not what CIOs want to hear. But it’s a good guideline about what you should expect, if that’s what Google has found — and they know about as much about writing network-enabled programs as anyone on the planet.
In addition to search using IPv6, Google offers Google Alerts, Docs, Finance, Gmail, Health, iGoogle, News, Reader, Picasa Web Albums, Maps, YouTube, and App Engine applications on appspot.com over IPv6.
But not just any IPv6 implementation will work with Google IPv6 enabled applications. Google has very specific IPv6 requirements for its users. First, your DNS server must natively support IPv6. Supporting IPV6 through an IPv4 tunnel does not work. For smaller companies that use their ISP’s DNS, that also means that the ISP’s DNS server must support IPv6.
Then, you need to get Google’s permission to use their IPv6 services. Google states, “To qualify for Google over IPv6, your network must have good IPv6 connectivity to Google. Low-latency, redundant paths using direct peering or reliable transit are required. Your network must provide and support production-quality IPv6 networking and provide access to a substantial number of IPv6 users. Additionally, because IPv6 problems with users’ connections can cause users to become unable to access Google if Google over IPv6 is enabled, we expect you to troubleshoot any IPv6 connection problems that arise in your or your users’ networks.”
You are welcome to try to use IPv4/IPv6 tunneling to Google, but Google warns, “We prefer to avoid enabling Google over IPv6 for networks behind tunnels at this time, as it can be difficult to guarantee good performance and to debug problems. If you would like to use Google over IPv6 but your up-streams only provide tunneled connections, or don’t provide IPv6 connectivity at all, we encourage you to ask them to support native IPv6. If there is sufficient demand, we may consider developing a solution to offer Google over IPv6 for tunneled networks, so please let us know if you’re interested.”
You’ve got the right stuff, or not, and you still want to give it a try? Then drop Google a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may be wondering why isn’t Google just opening the door to every brave network thrill seeker? It’s because, according to the Google IPv6 FAQ, “We continuously conduct detailed measurements on the quality of IPv6 connectivity, and our latest results show that making Google services generally available over IPv6 at this time would lead to connection problems and increased latency for a small number of users. User experience is very important to us, and we do not want to impact users on networks that do not yet fully support IPv6.”
Looking ahead, Google has been joined by its partners, and indeed some of its competitors, in getting the Internet and Internet services ready for IPv6. These include Cisco, Comcast, IBM, Nokia, T-Mobile, and Yahoo.
As you can probably tell from the above, while Google is working hard on IPv6, it’s not really ready for prime-time yet. That said, like it or lump it, we’re all going to need to start working with IPv6, so it would be better to start working with IPv6 now and companies like Google that are already in the IPv6 swimming hole then wait too long. After all, if you wait until the last minute before switching your network infrastructure, you may find yourself at a competitive disadvantage on the Internet, and no company can afford that in the 21st century.
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