Going IPv6 only: LeaseWeb DevOps engineer to cut off IPv4 for a week

The next-generation Internet has been available for many years, but what would happen if you were forced to survive without IPv4? In preparation for his keynote address at TechSummit Amsterdam, LeaseWeb engineer Arnoud Vermeer switches off IPv4 for one week to find out what could possibly go wrong

Why do you want to live with only IPv6 for a week?

For the past 15 to 20 years IPv6 has been available, but the transition from IPv4 has been slow to progress. Then two years ago we ran out of IPv4 space so over the past couple of years IPv6 adoption has been accelerating. In some countries, like our neighbor Belgium, IPv6 adoption is as high as 50 per cent, but here in the Netherlands it’s around 10 per cent. I wanted to see what would happen if I turned off IPv4 for a week and went IPv6-only.

What preparation have you done for the experiment?

I started by making sure all the servers I touch have IPv6 connectivity. At home I have a wireless access point with IPv6-only and I’m testing Internet connectivity with my phone by turning off GSM and connecting via Wi-Fi. My notebook is a MacBook which is easy to configure for IPv6.

What are some of the drivers for IPv6?

The biggest benefit is the economic driver. If you want to start an Internet company today you only get a small IPv4 block – just enough to support around 250 customers. So if you want to more you need to buy addresses at around 10 Euros per IP address, which is expensive.

When I recruit technical staff one of my interview questions is: “If you have limited IPv4 addresses and unlimited IPv6 addresses how do you make everything work?” More than 90 per cent of candidates say they don’t know. We’re in a tight spot as no one has experience with it. In an ideal world you don’t know if you are on IPv6 or IPv4, everything just works.

Going IPv6-only is like a challenge of living out in the bush for a week. You will ask yourself: “Can I work around the problem? Can I tunnel IPv4 over IPv6?”

If there is an obstacle with IPv6, there is an opportunity to do better. Here at LeaseWeb we’ve been running IPv6 since the early days and it’s been available for customers on a request basis forever. We offer IPv6 to customers for free which is one of the many things companies can do to improve the transition to IPv6.

What do you think will cause the most headaches?

I will possibly be “away” for the week, but don’t worry I’ll be back. My phone will be fine, my laptop will be fine, but my unsupported LG Smart TV? That’s a mystery. My e-reader is also a bit of an unknown.

I’m more concerned about the services part of it. Will I be able to watch Netflix? Will I be able to check, Twitter, Facebook and Google? The big unknown is how much of my day-to-day life will be interrupted.

My VPN and SSL connections will still work, but it will be interesting if our corporate back office services don’t work. That would be advantageous because if I experience a bug I can report it. I will make a list of everything that is broken – temporarily pause my experiment – and then fix them.

What future IPv6 plans do you have?

With this test complete next year I can do a “status update” and use IPv6 for six months to see what happens. For me it is about lessons learned so staff and customers don’t have to learn them.

If there is one take away I want people to learn from my TechSummit talk it is “what would break if I were to do this in my company”. If there is more awareness of IPv6 my talk will be a success.

Arnoud Vermeer is a DevOps Engineer at LeaseWeb. See his talk about what it’s like to go IPv6-only for a week at TechSummit Amsterdam, June 1, 2017. For more information, visit: http://www.techsummit.io/amsterdam/