OK, I admit it. I’ve had my head stuck firmly in the sand for almost 11 years. 11 years ago, to the month, I was sitting in my first TCP/IP class. I had fought through the first two days of class feeling mentally exhausted. I was finally beginning to wrap my head around IPv4 and variable length subnet mask. In fact, I was understanding IPv4 well enough that I could help my fellow students decipher the statements coming from our newly minted (and very proud of it) CCIE.
I was feeling pretty good about myself, and may have started to strut, just a little, as I moved from desk to desk, helping other students.
I should mention now, that I’m fairly quick on the up-take. I’m not bragging, simply stating that I meet the minimal requirements to be a geek. For some reason, I had really struggled with IPv4, so once I felt like I had a firm grasp of the concept, I was feeling pretty good.
My CCIE instructor, from his seat of power, saw a little pride develop in his class as more people caught the basics of VLSM. He, in the ultimate wisdom which comes with that coveted CCIE number, decided it was time to strangle those good feelings until they were most certainly dead. He did so, by launching into a 30 minute diatribe of how IPv4 would die a “quick death” and how IPv6 would take its place.
I’m sure you can imagine the look of horror on the faces of the students in the room. He certainly saw it, and fed off the fear as he blew through the broad topic that is IPv6. He delighted in mentioning that every device would have multiple IP’s, that each IP would be part of a different subnet. He threw out new words like anycast to a group of people who barely understood muilticast and unicast.
In 30 minutes, he convinced three students that IT was not really the field they wanted to pursue, and the rest that IPv6 was EVIL. I was so affected and confused by that 30 minute rant, it took me five years before I had a practical understanding of subnetting IPv4 networks again.
Since that time, I have done my best to ignore the existence of IPv6. I used the fact that vendors were still releasing new products without IPv6 support as a reason to keep my eyes and ears firmly closed.
<My IPv6 Rant>
I believe that when IPv6 was being created someone said, “Yes, we COULD do that, but SHOULD we do that”. The rest of the attendees sat silently as he was taken from the room, and forced to watch his organs being fed to a genetically engineered, but very bored, velociraptor. The group then hired a soothsayer to read the velociraptor droppings, which gave us IPv6, reality TV, and the song “Friday”. The velociraptor died after choking on a rib bone, so creating IPv7 is out of the question.
</My IPv6 Rant>
With that said, IPv6 is here to stay, and it’s time for us, as Network Engineers, to get on board. We can’t complain about NAT64, without being willing to make the commitment to IPv6. When new protocols like TRILL are brought up for discussion, it’s easy to get excited. TRILL takes something that we already know (IS-IS, L2, etc) and simply builds on it. It is also transparent to layers 4-7, so it doesn’t affect non-network types.
IPv6, causes us to backtrack. It changes all of the rules. It’s not just IPv6, it’s new routing protocols, DNS, application stacks, etc. We have to forget what we learned in IPv4, and relearn it for IPv6. Server admins and developers will also have to update their skills. It’s painful.
With that acknowledged, we can’t put off learning to subnet, route, and filter IPv6. It’s time to begin examining IPv6 routing protocols, and buying equipment or ordering circuits which don’t support IPv6 should be out of the question. Yes, it does feel like starting from scratch. Yes, you will have to learn every protocol that you thought you knew all over again. Yes, IPv6 makes everything more complicated.
System Admins and developers can’t support IPv6 until we do. We must move forward, so that they can move forward.
Most network engineers agree that NAT is a poor solution to the problem staring us down. There are only a few other options. We can upgrade our skills, beginning the long arduous task of becoming experts in IPv6. We can ignore the change, until we are required to upgrade; then deal with entire IT teams being unprepared, learning on the fly, while implementing poor solutions in the near-term. Finally, we can make the same choice that those three classmates of mine did. “Maybe networking isn’t for me, I’ll go do something easier, like lion taming.”