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Activity 2.1 IPv6 Business Case Scenarios

The business case for immediately migrating to IPv6 is not compelling in the way that Y2K was. Unmodified, Y2K would have stopped networks and IT system with potentially disastrous consequences. A huge amount of work resulted in minimal disruption on January 1, 2000. Failure to adopt IPv6 will have more subtle and less immediate consequences. In the IT medium term (2-3 years) and IT long term (5+ years), the consequences will become more significant. The implications and business cases for IPv6 adoption are being explored in Activity 2 of the IPv6 for eBusiness project. The following seven scenarios set out some possible IPv6 adoption cases:
  1. The 'do nothing' case
  2. It's inevitable, may as well go with the flow
  3. Competitive differentiation
  4. Competitive protection
  5. Return on investment
  6. Known opportunities - understood and tangible
  7. Unknown opportunities - preparing fertile ground

1. 'Do nothing' case

All case studies should start with the 'do nothing' case. At the outset, it should be noted IPv6 was developed with a strong design goal of being backwards and forwards compatible. A design mantra was 'break nothing' and this resulted in some compromises being adopted, compared to some of the more radical proposals that were considered. IPv6 coexists with IPv4 and the many transition tools reflect its ability to maintain both protocols simultaneously.

In a broad sense, the only applications or network communications that will 'break' are the cases where they are deliberately designed to do so. Applications specifically written for IPv6 may not work as effectively or at all in an IPv4 world. Unless IPv4 addresses are embedded as hard code, all existing applications will continue to run in an IPv6 world. Modern network software will generally test for the presence of an IPv4/IPv6 capability and adjust their protocol calls accordingly. We are already seeing this in the current deployment of new applications and operating systems.

One may not be disadvantaged in the short to medium term by not adopting IPv6, however there will be increasing examples of functional benefits that will be denied to non-IPv6 users. In the longer term, non-IPv6 users may be seriously disadvantaged by not participating in the then-current applications or hardware opportunities. Users may find themselves with constrained access to obsolete or limited functionality solutions. This will detrimentally affect their efficiency, productivity or even viability.

2. It's inevitable, may as well go with the flow

There is a certain inevitability to the IPv6 juggernaut. Overseas government departments are being mandated to use or make provision for IPv6 in reasonably short timeframes (Japan 2003, Switzerland 2005, Europe 2006, Korea 2006, USA 2008). Other countries such as China, Taiwan, the UK and Germany are actively integrating IPv6 planning into their strategic IT scenarios.

Many end-users recognise this and are implementing test labs, proofs of concept, and trial implementations. This is to provide familiarization, tease out the implementation issues, commence training for key support personnel, test the compatibility with existing processes and think about new opportunities that the protocol enhancement offers.

3. Competitive differentiation

IPv6 offers opportunities to differentiate service offering from competitive offerings. At a superficial level, this might include straight connectivity options - IPv6 web sites that are hidden from non-IPv6 users. More substantially, IPv6 offers advantages in security, authentication, and enhanced trust relationships that may allow a tiered service offering based on a rich set of customer/consumer Quality of Service parameters. Customers may pay for an enhanced experience or premium access and use IPv6 authentication as the trigger for differentiated services.

IPv6 is obviously more modern than IPv4, a 22 year old protocol. This may be used as a differentiator in some marketing campaigns. The increased security and functionality afforded by IPv6 can be parlayed in many different marketing messages.

4. Competitive protection

As competitors increase their use of IPv6, others may be forced to comply to be seen to be compatible - this is the counter point to competitive differentiation. There will be cases where B2B, Extranet, social networking or other loose collaborative interactions may demand IPv6 compliance just to be allowed to participate. It may be that non-IPv6 authentication or access will not be acceptable. Microsoft's Windows Collaboration (also known as Windows Meeting Space) application in Windows Vista and Longhorn Server are a case in point. Windows Meeting Space uses IPv6, so you must have IPv6 installed and enabled on your network adapter to use WMS. IPv6 is installed and enabled by default in Windows Vista.

Staying competitive with our trading partners and neighbouring countries will increasingly dominate Australia's geo-strategic thinking. An uncomfortable consequence of not adopting IPv6 may be that Australian industry will not be able to sell into advanced markets as they will lack an intimate and comprehensive appreciation of IPv6 networking. We may also become the dumping ground for obsolete IPv4 hardware and software applications.

5. Return on investment

The return on investment for IPv6 adoption follows a similar profile to any other IT project. Most companies would insist on this and not have it any other way. IT projects compete for resource and funding with all of the other processes of government, business or home budgets, and need to stand or fall accordingly. The IPv6 for eBusiness project is developing ROI tools based on an Excel spreadsheet that can be used to calculate the NPV (net present value), ROI (return on investment) and payback periods, typically over a 15 year period.

Cost-benefit analyses should demonstrate the viability of IPv6 adoption. Some of the attributes of IPv6 lend themselves to improving the capability of networking processes compared with today's IPv4 functions. A number of these are explored in the following section.

6. Known opportunities - understood and tangible

There are many cases where interoperability is a paramount requirement and current arrangements for addressibility, security and compatibility need to be enhanced. There are many examples where disparate entities are thrown together for short and longer times and need to interoperate. There are example in every home, society, company and country. Perhaps the starkest example is when emergency services respond to a natural disaster. The Fire, Police, Ambulance, rural fire authorities, SES, government departments, Utilities, Railways, Defence personnel and many others are thrown together with little opportunity for planning. IP-based networking is increasingly used to allow interoperability between these services on an ad hoc basis.

Even so, current IPv4-based services do not allow the degree of fluency and granularity to ensure an adequate interweaving of disparate communications and IT services. The unique technical enhancements of IPv6 address these limitations. The basic carriage and management services of IPv4 functions like TCP, UDP, subnetting, DNS, DHCP, AAAA, OAM, Ping, etc., have their equivalent protocols in IPv6. However IPv6 offers some unique capabilities. These are outlined in the following table:

Vastly increased address space Extending the 4 billion IPv4 address space to the 3.4 x 10^38 IPv6 address space allows many existing and new processes to receive addresses. This includes all the world's billions of mobile phones and computing devices. It will also include the nearly 200 addressable processes in a typical motor vehicle. Homes may have tens or hundreds of IP addresses. It has been said that in the future, any device worth more than $10 will have at least one IP address (source: Dr. Dean Economou, CENTIE 2002).
Fixed 40-byte headers IP packet headers have 2 addresses; the Source and the Destination address. In IPv6, the address size increases from 32 bits to 128 bits, a four-fold increase. IPv6 headers therefore carry 256 bits of addressing compared with 64 bits in IPv4. IPv4 packet headers vary in size depending on the attributes that are assigned - they are typically around 20 bytes. With IPv6, a significant rationalization has taken place such that the IPv6 header is now a fixed 40 bytes. Although this is approximately twice as big, the advantage of a fixed versus variable header cannot be understated. IP routing devices can be optimised in IPv6 to deliver increased packet forwarding rates (typically a 12-10% improvement in some cases).
Autoconfiguration Autoconfiguration is the automatic configuration of devices without manual intervention, software configuration programs or jumpers, and devices should just "Plug and Play". When an IPv6 network adapter card is activated, it assigns itself an IP address based on a standard prefix appended to its own MAC address. This enables the device to communication on the local network and seek out any servers that it is allowed to communication with. These might use DHCPv6, AAAA or other mechanisms to download gateway addresses, security setting, policy attributes or other relevant services. This process also includes duplicate address detection, multihoming and other useful network administration activity.
Default IPsec Security IPv4 was developed at a time when Security was not uppermost as a concern. Authenticating protocols such as IPsec were developed later and need to be retrofitted into IPv4 protocol stacks. This leads to interoperability and implementation inconsistencies. IPv6, on the other hand, had security as a major design criteria and conforming standards-based IPv6 protocol stacks have IPsec as a mandatory requirement. All conforming IPv6 sessions can therefore be authenticated. This is not to say that users cannot control whether to use this or not, however the capability is there for everyone.
End to end trust Network Address Translation (NAT) has broken the end to end trust that was a hallmark of early IPv4 services. As there are one or more translation devices in most of today's Internet connections, there is no visibility between the end-users themselves. The authenticated IPv4 Internet connections stop at these NAT gateways. There can be one or thousands of users behind these gateways and the A party has no way of knowing about them, let alone trusting them. Authenticated IPsec IPv6 sessions will route from end to end. Users and machine-to-machine communication sessions will have confidence that the party/service they are connected with is genuinely who they think it is.
Attribute Extension Headers To conserve space in the IPv6 packet header, a series of Extension Attribute packets have been defined. Instead of burdening the main packet header with security, QoS, encryption, performance and management payloads, these have been assigned their own unique packet structures. If they are needed, they are inserted between the routing header and the payload. The routing header includes an indication as to the presence of Extended Attribute packets. This vastly speeds up the router packet forwarding rates and improves the efficiency of the communications sessions.
Anycasting Anycasting is a unique attribute of IPv6. In IPv4, Unicast and Multicast addressing is supported. A Unicast session is one where a direct session between the source and the destination is established. Most of the IPv4 Internet consists of Unicast sessions. Multicast sessions exist between a single source and multiple predetermined destinations, all of whom receive the source's transmission, much like the broadcast from a satellite to many receivers simultaneously. Anycast addressing, unique to IPv6, refers to a single source calling a predetermined list of Anycast destinations, but only one destination responds and participates in subsequent transmissions. The other Anycast addresses realise that someone has responded and do not participate further. Anycasting has many applications including the distribution of multimedia and video over the Internet. For example, a customer might request a video package from a news server and the geographically-closest server may respond. Or it might be a server that was further away but was more lightly loaded. Or was further away, heavily loaded but connected over a less expensive path. There are many permutations and most have not yet been explored or exploited.
MobileIPv6 When a device moves from its home network, its IP address will be recognized as a foreign address in its new location and will be denied service. The gateway it originally was told to use in its home network is no longer valid and communication sessions will not be established. This may happen many times in the course of a single journey, across a city for example, where many different carrier services might be available. To overcome this limitation, a process called MobileIP was developed in IPv4. This consisted of the devices calling 'home' and telling the home network of its changing gateway environments (the foreign correspondent model). This is a very inefficient way to operate as all traffic to and from the mobile device has to be routed via the home network. MobileIP has been extended in IPv6 to overcome this inefficient triangulation. In MobileIPv6, a foreign correspondent server is continuously updated as to the network the device is in and which gateway to use to reach the traveling device. The bulk of the packets flow directly between mobile device and its communicators, and not via the home address. This vastly improves performance and reliability, and reduces cost.
Flow Label QoS All of the Differentiated Services (DiffServ) and Integrated Services (IntServ) Quality of Service attributes from IPv4 are carried over into IPv6. In addition, IPv6 exclusively has a 20-byte Flow Label field. This field is being developed to provide a rich set of Quality of Service attributes for the growing IPv6 world. Many of these sets are being deployed, and market acceptance/adoption will determine the ones that succeed.

7. Unknown opportunities - preparing fertile ground

Although the IPv6 protocol has been under development for over 10 years, most of the detailed implementation work is less than 5 years old. Unlike the time when IPv4 was developed, the Internet is now a mainstream activity that touches practically every aspect of daily lives, commerce, government and socialinteractions. Compared with only a short time ago, whole armies of engineers, entrepreneurs and programmers are dedicating their professional lives to exploiting the capabilities of the Next Generation IP. New and innovative enhancements are being made every day to the Internet Protocol Suite. It can be anticipated that unforeseen and innovative applications will continuously come into being. Students being taught IPv6 protocols today will continue to find opportunities to express themselves in new and challenging ways as they graduate into the workforce.

The basic design of the IPv6 protocol suite is not a closed system. Using the open framework approach of Extended Attribute packets, IPv6 is an extensible protocol that has no practical limits. It provides the functionality we need now, and is open to what we may need in the future. IPv6 is uniquely positioned to support new and innovative applications such as Peer to Peer (P2P), Sensor Networking, GRID and Ambient Intelligence. IPv6 is bringing together researchers across multiple disciplines: computer science, electronics and mechanical engineering, design, architecture, social sciences, and software engineering. It is the platform of the Future.

Michael Biber, Internet Society of Australia,
and IPv6 Forum Downunder

The IPv6 for e-Business project is supported by the Australian Government through the Information Technology Online (ITOL) Program of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.