March 21, 2001, 11:35 AM — RIPv6, the latest and greatest version of Internet protocol, has been in the pipeline for more than six years. However, serious questions remain as to whether the hardware, software and services are in place to launch IPv6 into the global Internet.
The hands-on testing program for the biannual NetWorld+Interop 2000 trade show, called iLabs, will try to answer those questions this week in Atlanta. I'm on the IPv6 testing team, and this is a journal of our experiences looking at how vendors are integrating IPv6 into their hardware and software.
Overall, our testing showed that IPv6 support was excellent in certain areas, such as infrastructure and basic operations. While router vendors are nowhere near ready for enterprise IPv6 networks, enough code is available to give network managers a feel for what it will be like to manage a mixed IPv4/IPv6 network.
However, as you move up the stack, things get weaker and weaker, with applications still stuck in the demonstration stage.
Late last month, our team assembled in a warehouse south of San Francisco airport to set up a "hotstage" for the IPv6 testing that will take place in Atlanta. This article is based on the testing completed during the "hotstage" process.
Who's playing the IPv6 game?
To find products, we sent team leader Craig Watkins of Transcend to the IPv6 Summit earlier this year to entice vendors to participate.
On the infrastructure side of the house, Nortel Networks and 3Com have had IPv6 products on the market for some time and brought those to test. Nortel was running a slightly outdated version of BayRS, Version 14, running on an Access Stack Node, while 3Com gave us Version 11, its most recent version of the Pathbuilder 580 router. Cisco offered public beta-test code for its IPv6-enabled version of IOS, but we managed to get a slightly newer version (based on IOS Version 12.1) directly from the development team, which we loaded on Cisco 3640 and 7505 boxes.
We could bridge IPv6 over a Layer 3 switch in the same way we could bridge Appletalk or Decnet, but that is not that interesting as it doesn 't demonstrate true IPv6 support in this gear.
On the workstation and server sides, we spent a lot of time with Unix implementations, where the support for IPv6 is strongest. Nortel sent Mike Kadlec to help us, and he brought FreeBSD running the KAME IPv6 code. KAME is a cooperative research project, based in Japan, which is releasing production-quality IPv6 code. This software is being built into most of the freeware Unix kernels. ILabs team member Allen Gwinn, a senior director at Southern Methodist University, brought a Linux system running Red Hat Version 6.2, which has IPv6 built into the kernel.