Ipv6 in telecommunication switching systems has a lot of implimentation effects in our real world. Stanley Goguen is the Founder of Ipv6Today, which helps ISPs transition to IPv6, and is a former cable modem and ISP product manager and systems architect.
Telecommunications networks are huge. The industry has largely transitioned to IPv4 to this point, but there are many systems that are not as mature. One is the core switching system, and there is a need to migrate more applications and different software applications to IPv6 and to support existing applications. One of the challenges is, if the legacy application is working on IPv4, the customer will not run a new application on it until the legacy network has transitioned to IPv6.
The main driver in networking is how to get applications to run. The combination of IPv6 and IPv4 requires some changes. While they are happening, we are seeing a lot of people looking at services that work with IPv6, and helping them to run on IPv6. It is a progression that may not be that seamless, especially if you have an application that was developed using IP 4.
There are some parts that are the same, like TCP sockets and network protocols. But IP sockets are only running on IPv4. Some networking tools were initially built for IP 4 or IPv6, and are specifically designed for one or the other. Ipv6Today does a lot of that work for users. The core product suite is called Ipv6Today Cloud and it is a complete solution for IPv6. The goal is to provide customers an integrated platform that can connect, monitor and protect all their services, from the network switches that are running to the applications that are running. The platform gives an organization complete control over their networks and applications, from IP configuration to any issues that arise. It is a key solution for customers who want to transition.
Ipv6Today provides a good solution for customers. It is generally run by network operators or others that have a large network and need to make a transition, like core providers and web hosting companies. The core solution is around the core network, but it also uses applications and APIs to extend it.
What about service providers who don’t run their own core switches?
They can use other solutions. There are solutions that are used to do IPv6 functions like MPLS or network protocol replacements. A lot of service providers are doing that work today. For example, the data center operator is looking at building services on IP 6, especially for data centers. And the Wi-Fi provider is looking at new connections for that network. In both cases, you would use the service provider’s core switches. But the next step for a customer is the core switching.
The reason why they are not using the solution at that point is they may have a legacy application that is running on IPv4. And there may be a requirement to deploy additional software applications and network applications to support the existing applications. The core solution that was developed for IPv4 may not support that application. So in many cases, it is really more of a compatibility issue. The core switching might be able to run the legacy application, but then they have to develop a new application that would run on top of it. A lot of the providers are wanting to avoid that sort of complex project.
The core solution uses some networking features and requires some programming. There is some work that has to be done for the different parts of the product to talk to each other. A lot of the time it is a compatibility issue, and they are able to resolve that issue. It may be a project in which you take the core switching and replace some parts, and implement the new networking features that you need. It may be as simple as changing the IP addresses to change what the networking interfaces are called. Or changing the routing protocol to add more functionality. In many cases it is less than a day of work to do all of that.
Are there applications that you think you could not have gotten to today on IPv6?
We believe so. We have been working with some key ISC companies and some key large enterprises. And the applications are there. And they are a little bit different for each customer. It is possible that some application developers will have to adapt their applications, but we think most will be able to adapt. Most applications have been built for IPv4. There may be some things you don’t see today, but the applications will still run on the core infrastructure.
How long does it take to develop software and integrate it with the core?
Generally, it is usually under a day. There may be a certain amount of work to integrate with existing systems. And if it is an application that has to be tuned or altered, it may take a little bit longer. In the near future, we would expect an app developer to do a few extra hours of integration and testing. But in most cases, developers will be able to run it and get it deployed to their environment pretty quickly.
Does it ever make sense to use native IPv6 networking functions in applications that aren’t really designed for it?
Yes, it is a good use case.
Is there a role for edge services in your core networking architecture?
Edge services are also something that is happening. Different applications are being built with the application level networking capabilities in the application. For example, in the context of Wi-Fi, it is building new applications that would use the IP protocol and services. On the core side, the core switches have some basic services, but it is possible to leverage application level networking. In the core world, it is possible to do very low latency applications. So many of the people who are developing applications are going to be building network functions for the core. That is also one of the core requirements for the next generation of switching.
But there is another side. There are the system integrators. Some of the equipment providers like EMC or Cisco are coming up with some proprietary core switching modules, and they are starting to make it easier to integrate those into your switch. Now, you can get some of those additional features through an integrated solution that has the virtualization elements and other technologies in the package. That is going to be another area where you will have a larger application base and these different virtualization layers in the core will make it easier to integrate.
Many people think you can just have some specialized software built, but there is a bigger role. Some people think you can just put together some virtual switches and move everything around, but the majority of customers want to make the network smaller and have fewer points of failure. And that is a combination of the networking infrastructure and the application layer.
So, if you can integrate an application to the network layer and use the virtualization elements, then you can have a very tight setup. You don’t have to worry about all of the physical components. You don’t have to worry about all the wiring and all the cables. You can use some virtualization and micro switches to really limit the system’s footprint. You may even have virtualized switches and routing as a higher level network layer.
And it is only going to get smaller over time. But the network has always been an application and an application layer. It will always have to have a software defined network approach to make sure everything is safe and secure. If you are putting more devices on the network, you will want to make sure the underlying operating system is well protected. We are seeing more and more security concerns and we are seeing software-defined security. So, we think the network is going to be a very important layer to protect the applications.
It is important for the network to be well protected. The application layer is going to be very important to protect applications. In most cases, we do see more and more applications that are networking aware.
Is there a role for virtual network functions to help with that?
There is a role for virtual network functions, but we need to look at the networking infrastructure in a broader context. What we need to look at is the core infrastructure, the physical layer, the virtual layer, and how we do layer one over the top of it. And that is what we are going to do. If you look at what network function does for the core, we need to consider the physical layer in the same scope. So, you have to make sure that the core is well protected. There is a larger set of security issues that need to be looked at in the core network and making sure that security is there.
For the security, you don’t have to look at the applications, but that network is connected to applications. So, if you can secure those applications, then the applications are going to be a bit more secure and the network is also going to be safer. On the application side, if you are building an application that is only networking aware, then you can secure the application layer. It might be a special-purpose security in a separate network for the application. That is going to be the best route to look at.
How do you see the security moving forward?
Security is becoming more important. Security is always in a risk profile. You want to make sure that the applications and the environment that you are protecting is as secure as possible. When we look at security, the data center networks are the weakest part of a security environment. Most security issues happen at the physical layer. On the application side, there is a different set of security issues that come up. So, we have to protect both of these different layers and make sure the whole environment is protected.