Posts Tagged 'Ip Addresses'

August 27, 2012

IPv4 v. IPv6 - What's the Difference?

About a year ago, Phil Jackson and I recorded a podcast-esque click-through of a presentation that explained the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 address space, and as a testament to the long-tail nature of blog posts, Internet Society's Deploy360 Blog shared the video. With a hint of nostalgia, I clicked "play" on the video.

I laughed. I cried. I found it informative. I noticed a few places where it could have been better.

We recorded the video in response to a tweet from one of our Twitter followers, and the off-the-cuff dialog wound up being somewhere in between "accessible, informative and funny" and "overly detailed, too long and obviously improvised." Because there aren't many people who want to listen to two guys give a 15-minute presentation on IP addresses when they could be watching a Songified review of Five Guys Burgers and Fries or an epic data center tour, I thought I'd dilute the information from the video into a quick blog post that spells out some of the major distinctions between IPv4 and IPv6 so you can scan it, interject your own "witty" banter and have your favorite YouTube viral video playing in the background.

IP Address Overview

An IP address is like a telephone number or a street address. When you connect to the Internet, your device (computer, smartphone, tablet) is assigned an IP address, and any site you visit has an IP address. The IP addressing system we've been using since the birth of the Internet is called IPv4, and the new addressing system is called IPv6. The reason we have to supplement the IPv4 address system (and ultimately eclipse it) with IPv6 is because the Internet is running out of available IPv4 address space, and IPv6 provides is an exponentially larger pool of IP addresses ... Let's look at the numbers:

  • Total IPv4 Space: 4,294,967,296 addresses
  • Total IPv6 Space: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses

Even saying the IPv6 space is "exponentially larger" doesn't really paint the picture of the difference in size.

IPv4 Addresses

To understand why the IPv4 address space is limited to four billion addresses, we can break down an IPv4 address. An IPv4 address is a 32-bit number made up of four octets (8-bit numbers) in decimal notation, separated by periods. A bit can either be a 1 or a 0 (2 possibilities), so the decimal notation of an octet would have 28 distinct possibilities — 256 of them, to be exact. Because we start numbering at 0, the possible values of one an octet in an IPv4 address go from 0 to 255.

Examples of IPv4 Addresses: 192.168.0.1, 66.228.118.51, 173.194.33.16

If an IPv4 address is made up of four sections with 256 possibilities in each section, to find the total number of possibilities in the entire IPv4 pool, you'd just multiply 256*256*256*256 to get to the 4,294,967,296 number. To look at it another way, you've got 32 bits, so 232 will get you to the same total.

IPv6 Addresses

IPv6 addresses are based on 128 bits. Using the same math as above, we can take 2128 and find the total IPv6 address pool (which I won't copy again here because it takes up too much space). Because the IPv6 pool is so much larger than the IPv4 pool, it'd be much more difficult to define the space in the same decimal notation ... you'd have 232 possibilities in each section.

To allow for that massive IPv6 pool to be used a little more easily, IPv6 addresses are broken down into eight 16-bit sections, separated by colons. Because each section is 16 bits, it can have 216 variations (65,536 distinct possibilities). Using decimal numbers between 0 and 65,535 would still be pretty long-winded, so IPv6 addresses are expressed with hexadecimal notation (16 different characters: 0-9 and a-f).

Example of an IPv6 Addresses: 2607:f0d0:4545:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf

That's still a mouthful, but it's a little more manageable than the decimal alternatives.

CIDR Slash (/) Notation

When people talk about blocks of IP addresses, they generally use CIDR Slash (/) Notation where the block might look like this: 192.0.2.0/24 ... When you glance at that number, you might assume, "Okay, so you have 192.0.2.0 through 192.0.2.24," but CIDR notation is not showing you the range of addresses, it's telling you the size of the "network" part of the allocation.

IP addresses are made up two parts — the network and the host. The "network" part of the address tells us the number of bits that stay the same at the beginning of the block of IPs, while the "host" part of the address are the bits that define the different possibilities of IP addresses in the block. In CIDR notation, a /24 is telling us that the first 24 bits of the address are defined by the network, so we have 8 bits (32 total bits minus 24 network bits) in the host — 28 is 256 distinct addresses. The 192.0.2.0/24 IPv4 address block includes 192.0.2.0 to 192.0.2.255.

IPv4 address blocks can be as large as a /8 (given to regional registries like ARIN and APNIC), and they can be as small as a /32 (which is a single IP address).

Why Provision So Many IPv6 Addresses?

When SoftLayer provisions an IPv6 address block on a server, we give a /64 block of IPv6 addresses ... Or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IPv6 addresses to each server. That number seems excessive, but the /64 block size is the "smallest" IPv6 allocation block.

Providers like SoftLayer are allocated /32 blocks of IPv6 addresses. The difference between a /32 and a /64 is 32 bits (232) ... Bonus points if you can remember where you've seen that number before. What that means is that SoftLayer is given a block of IP addresses so large that we could provision 4,294,967,296 /64 blocks of IPv6 addresses ... Or put more remarkably: In one /32 block of IPv6 space, there are the same number of /64 blocks of IPv6 addresses as there are TOTAL IPv4 addresses.

So while it's pretty impossible to use a full /64 of IPv6 addresses on a server, it's equally difficult for SoftLayer to burn through its /32 block.

So Now What?

IPv4 space is running out quickly. If your site isn't running a dual-stack IPv6 configuration yet, it's possible that you're going to start missing traffic from users who are only able to access the Internet over IPv6 (which is not backwards compatible with IPv4). If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn't support IPv6 yet, you won't be able to access websites that are broadcast only with IPv6 addresses.

The percentage of instances of each of those cases is relatively small, but it's only going to get larger ... And it only takes one missed customer to make you regret not taking the steps to incorporate IPv6 into your infrastructure.

-@khazard

July 26, 2012

Global IP Addresses - What Are They and How Do They Work?

SoftLayer recently released "Global IPs" to a good amount of internal fanfare, and I thought I'd share a little about it with the blog audience in case customers have questions about what Global IPs are and how they work. Simply put, Global IP addresses can be provisioned in any data center on the SoftLayer network and moved to another facility if necessary. You can point it to a server in Dallas, and if you need to perform maintenance on the server in Dallas, you can move the IP address to a server in Amsterdam to seamlessly (and almost immediately) transition your traffic. If you spin up and turn down workloads on cloud computing instances, you have the ability to maintain and a specific IP address when you completely turn down an environment, and you can quickly reprovision the IP on a new instance when you spin up the next workload.

How Do Global IPs Work?

The basics of how the Internet works are simple: Packets are sent between you and a server somewhere based on the location of the content you've requested. That location is pinpointed by an IP address that is assigned to a specific server or cloud. Often for various reasons, blocks of IP addresses are provisioned in one region or location, so Global IPs are a bit of a departure from the norm.

When you're sending/receiving packets, you might thing the packets "know" the exact physical destination as soon as they're directed to an IP address, but in practice, they don't have to ... The packets are forwarded along a path of devices with a general idea of where the exact location will be, but the primary concern of each device is to get the all packets to the next hop in the network path as quickly as possible by using default routes and routing tables. As an example, let's follow a packet as it comes from an external webserver and detail how it gets back to your machine:

  1. The external webserver sends the packet to a local switch.
  2. The switch passes it to a router.
  3. The packet traverses a number of network hops (other routers) and enters the Softlayer network at one of the backbone routers (BBR).
  4. The BBR looks at the IP destination and compares it to a table shared and updated with the other routers on SoftLayer's network, and it locates the subnet the IP belongs to.
  5. The BBR determines behind which distribution aggregate router (DAR) the IP is located, then it to the closest BBR to that DAR.
  6. The DAR gets the packet, looks at its own tables, and finds the front-end customer router (FCR) that the subnet lives on, and sends it there.
  7. The FCR routes the packet to the front-end customer switch (FCS) that has that IP mapped to the proper MAC address.
  8. The switch then delivers the packet through the proper switchport.
  9. Your server gets the packet from the FCS, and the kernel goes, "Oh yes, that IP on the public port, I'll accept this now."

All of those steps happen in an instant, and for you to be reading this blog, the packets carrying this content would have followed a similar pattern to the browser on your computer.

The process is slightly different when it comes to Global IP addresses. When a packet is destined for a Global IP, as soon as it gets onto the SoftLayer network (step 4 above), the routing process changes.

We allocate subnets of IP addresses specifically to the Global IP address pool, and we tell all the BBRs that these IPs are special. When you order a global IP, we peel off one of those IPs and add a static route to your chosen server's IP address, and then tell all the BBRs that route. Rather than the server's IP being an endpoint, the network is expecting your server to act as a router, and do something with the packet when it is received. I know that could sound a little confusing since we aren't really using the server as a router, so let's follow a packet to your Global IP (following the first three steps from above):

  1. The BBR notes that this IP belongs to one of the special Global IP address subnets, and matches the destination IP with the static route to the destination server you chose when you provisioned the Global IP.
  2. The BBR forwards the packet to the DAR, which then finds the FCR, then hands it off to the switch.
  3. The switch hands the packet to your server, and your server accepts it on the public interface like a regular secondary IP.
  4. Your server then essentially "routes" the packet to an IP address on itself.

Because the Global IP address can be moved to different servers in different locations, whenever you change the destination IP, the static route is updated in our routing table quickly. Because the change is happening exclusively on SoftLayer's infrastructure, you don't have to wait on other providers propagate the change. Think of updating your site's domain to a new IP address via DNS as an example: Even after you update your authoritative DNS servers, you have to wait for your users' DNS servers to recognize and update the new IP address. With Global IPs, the IP address would remain the same, and all users will follow the new path as soon as the routers update.

This initial release of Global IP addresses is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to functionality. The product management and network engineering teams are getting customer feedback and creating roadmaps for the future of the product, so we'd love to hear your feedback and questions. If you want a little more in-depth information about installation and provisioning, check out the Global IP Addresses page on KnowledgeLayer.

-Jason

January 18, 2012

Keep Fighting: SOPA on the Ropes. PIPA Lurking.

The Internet is unnervingly quiet today. In response to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, some of the most popular sites on the web have gone dark today – demonstrating the danger (and the potential unchecked power) of these two bills.

Late Friday afternoon, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith announced that the DNS-blocking provisions would be removed from SOPA, and on Saturday, The White House responded to in opposition to the the bills as they stand today. Shortly thereafter, SOPA was "shelved."

The Internet was abuzz ... but the Champagne wasn't getting popped yet. After digging into the details, it was revealed that SOPA being "shelved" just meant that it is being temporarily put to sleep. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith stood explained:

"To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America's intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy.

Due to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February."

I only mention this because it's important not to forget that SOPA isn't dead, and it's still very dangerous. If you visit sites like reddit, Wikipedia, Mozilla and Boing Boing today (January 18, 2012), you experience the potential impact of the legislation.

The Internet's outrage against SOPA has brought about real change in our nation's capital: The House is reconsidering the bill, and they'll hopefully dismiss it. With our collective momentum, we need to look at the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA, or Senate Bill 968) – a similar bill with similarly harmful implications that's been sneaking around in SOPA's shadow.

As it is defined today, PIPA has a stated goal of providing the US Government and copyright holders an additional arsenal of tools to aide in taking down 'rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods.' The Senate bill details that an "information location tool shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, to remove or disable access to the Internet site associated with the domain name set forth in the order." In addition, it must delete all hyperlinks to the offending "Internet site."

Our opposition to PIPA is nearly identical to our opposition to SOPA. Both require a form of essentially breaking a core aspect of how the Internet functions – whether that breakage happens in DNS (as detailed in my last blog post) or in the required rearchitecture of the way any site that accepts user-generated content has to respond to PIPA-related complaints.

PIPA is scheduled for Senate vote on January 24, 2012. It is important that you voice your opinion with your government representatives and let them know about your opposition to both SOPA and PIPA. We want to help you get started down that path. Find your local representatives' contact information:

[SOPA Concerns]: Contact your congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives
[PIPA Concerns]: Contact your Senator in the U.S. Senate

Keep spreading the word, and make sure your voice is heard.

-@toddmitchell

January 12, 2012

How the Internet Works (And How SOPA Would Break It)

Last week, I explained SoftLayer's stance against SOPA and mentioned that SOPA would essentially require service providers like SoftLayer to "break the Internet" in response to reports of "infringing sites." The technical readers in our audience probably acknowledged the point and moved on, but our non-technical readers (and some representatives in Congress) might have gotten a little confused by the references to DNS, domains and IP addresses.

Given how pervasive the Internet is in our daily lives, you shouldn't need to be "a techie" to understand the basics of what makes the Internet work ... And given the significance of the SOPA legislation, you should understand where the bill would "break" the process. Let's take a high level look at how the Internet works, and from there, we can contrast how it would work if SOPA were to pass.

The Internet: How Sites Are Delivered

  1. You access a device connected in some way to the Internet. This device can be a cell phone, a computer or even a refrigerator. You are connected to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) which recognizes that you will be accessing various sites and services hosted remotely. Your ISP manages a network connected to the other networks around the globe ("inter" "network" ... "Internet").
  2. You enter a domain name or click a URL (for this example, we'll use http://www.softlayer.com since we're biased to that site).

Internet Basics

  1. Your ISP will see that you want to access "www.softlayer.com" and will immediately try to find someone/something that knows what "www.softlayer.com" means ... This search is known as an NS (name server) lookup. In this case, it will find that "www.softlayer.com" is associated with several name servers.

Internet Basics

  1. The first of these four name servers to respond with additional information about "softlayer.com" will be used. Domains are typically required to be associated with two or three name servers to ensure if one is unreachable, requests for that domain name can be processed by another.
  2. The name server has Domain Name System (DNS) information that maps "www.softlayer.com" to an Internet Protocol (IP) address. When a domain name is purchased and provisioned, the owner will associate that domain name with an authoritative DNS name server, and a DNS record will be created with that name server linking the domain to a specific IP address. Think of DNS as a phone book that translates a name into a phone number for you.

Internet Basics

  1. When the IP address you reach sees that you requested "www.softlayer.com," it will find the files/content associated with that request. Multiple domains can be hosted on the same IP address, just as multiple people can live at the same street address and answer the phone. Each IP address only exists in a single place at a given time. (There are some complex network tricks that can negate that statement, but in the interest of simplicity, we'll ignore them.)
  2. When the requested content is located (and generated by other servers if necessary), it is returned to your browser. Depending on what content you are accessing, the response from the server can be very simple or very complex. In some cases, the request will return a single HTML document. In other cases, the content you access may require additional information from other servers (database servers, storage servers, etc.) before the request can be completely fulfilled. In this case, we get HTML code in return.

Internet Basics

  1. Your browser takes that code and translates the formatting and content to be displayed on your screen. Often, formatting and styling of pages will be generated from a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) referenced in the HTML code. The purpose of the style sheet is to streamline a given page's code and consolidate the formatting to be used and referenced by multiple pages of a given website.

Internet Basics

  1. The HTML code will reference sources for media that may be hosted on other servers, so the browser will perform the necessary additional requests to get all of the media the website is trying to show. In this case, the most noticeable image that will get pulled is the SoftLayer logo from this location: http://static2.softlayer.com/images/layout/logo.jpg

Internet Basics

  1. When the HTML is rendered and the media is loaded, your browser will probably note that it is "Done," and you will have successfully navigated to SoftLayer's homepage.

If SOPA were to pass, the process would look like this:

The Internet: Post-SOPA

  1. You access a device connected in some way to the Internet.
  2. You enter a domain name or click a URL (for this example, we'll use http://www.softlayer.com since we're biased to that site).

*The Change*

  1. Before your ISP runs an NS lookup, it would have to determine whether the site you're trying to access has been reported as an "infringing site." If http://www.softlayer.com was reported (either legitimately or illegitimately) as an infringing site, your ISP would not process your request, and you'd proceed to an error page. If your ISP can't find any reference to the domain an infringing site, it would start looking for the name server to deliver the IP address.
  2. SOPA would also enforce filtering from all authoritative DNS provider. If an ISP sends a request for an infringing site to the name server for that site, the provider of that name server would be forced to prevent the IP address from being returned.
  3. One additional method of screening domains would happen at the level of the operator of the domain's gTLD. gTLDs (generic top-level domains) are the ".____" at the end of the domain (.com, .net, .biz, etc.). Each gTLD is managed by a large registry organization, and a gTLD's operator would be required to prevent an infringing site's domain from functioning properly.
  4. If the gTLD registry operator, your ISP and the domain's authoritative name server provider agree that the site you're accessing has not been reported as an infringing site, the process would resume the pre-SOPA process.

*Back to the Pre-SOPA Process*

  1. The domain's name server responds.
  2. The domain's IP address is returned.
  3. The IP address is reached to get the content for http://www.softlayer.com.
  4. HTML is returned.
  5. Your browser translates the HTML into a visual format.
  6. External file references from the HTML are returned.
  7. The site is loaded.

The proponents of SOPA are basically saying, "It's difficult for us to keep up with and shut down all of the instances of counterfeiting and copyright infringement online, but it would be much easier to target the larger sites/providers 'enabling' users to access that (possible) infringement." Right now, the DMCA process requires a formal copyright complaint to be filed for every instance of infringement, and the providers who are hosting the content on their network are responsible for having that content removed. That's what our abuse team does full-time. It's a relatively complex process, but it's a process that guarantees us the ability to investigate claims for legitimacy and to hear from our customers (who hear from their customers) in response to the claims.

SOPA does not allow for due process to investigate concerns. If a site is reported to be an infringing site, service providers have to do everything in their power to prevent users from getting there.

-@toddmitchell

June 23, 2011

IPv6 - Blocks, Slashes and Big Numbers

IPv4 addresses are 32-bit while IPv6 addresses are 128-bit. Customers can get a /64 allocation of IPv6 addresses provisioned to a single SoftLayer server. A /64 block of IPv6 addresses contains 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 distinct addresses. The entire IPv4 address space is 4,294,967,296 distinct addresses.

It's easy to get lost in a sea of numbers when you start talking about IPv4 and IPv6 address space. With the exhaustion of IPv4 address space and the big push toward IPv6, everyone's talking about address blocks, usage justification and dual stack compatibility, but all of those conversations presuppose a certain understanding of why IP addresses are the way they are. Someone can say, "The IPv6 pool is exponentially larger than the IPv4 pool," but that statement needs a little context when you hear that providers like SoftLayer are provisioning a free /64 IPv6 allocation of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 addresses to a single server. If the entire IPv4 pool on the Internet is 4,294,967,296 addresses and we're giving away that many IPv6 addresses to a single server, a simple question logically follows:

MattCodes

Are the Internet authorities being irresponsible when they're allowing such huge numbers of IPv6 addresses to be assigned to individual servers without a demonstrated need for that many addresses? Will this "wastefulness" lead to another IP address pool depletion in our lifetime? These questions are completely legitimate, and they're much easier to explain in a visualized format than they are if we answered them line-by-line in text:

The video duration might seem intimidating, especially if you consider that all 15 minutes are spent talking about IP addresses (Woohoo!), but there's a lot of information, and we did our best to break it down to simple pieces that logically follow each other to help you get the full picture of the world of IP addresses. We explain what CIDR Slash (/) Notation (where you see IP address blocks written as "192.0.2.0/24"), and we offer a simple trick to calculate the number of distinct addresses available in a given IPv4 block. There's a fair amount of witty (and not-witty) banter and at least one use of the word "ridonkulous," so if you enjoyed the DC Construction video commentary, you'll get a kick out of this one too.

Toward the end of the video, we speak directly to why SoftLayer is able to give a /64 of IPv6 addresses to every server and what that means for the future of the IPv6 space.

Fun Fact: SoftLayer IP Address Space*

  • IPv4: 872,448 Addresses
  • IPv6 (/32): 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336 Addresses

*Does not include IP space assigned to The Planet

Did the video help you wrap your mind around the differences between IPv4 and IPv6? Do you have any more questions about the differences between the two or how SoftLayer is approaching them?

-@khazard

Categories: 
February 18, 2011

Is Your Business Ready for World IPv6 Day?

As you may have seen earlier in the week, SoftLayer is joining ISOC's 24-hour IPv6 "test flight" as a part of World IPv6 Day on June 8, 2011.

As I alluded in ISOC's press release, SoftLayer is a hosting provider, but we aren't going to be an effective resource for our customers if we don't adopt the newest technologies and platforms for future growth. Because we've built our business around that idea, you won't see many substantial changes when June 8 rolls around ... We were a little ahead of the curve in December 2008 when we began providing native IPv6 support to our publicly available services. The point of this Internet-wide event is not about getting there first, though ... It's about everyone getting there.

What does World IPv6 day mean to you? Probably little to nothing in the short-run. While there's a unanimous sense of urgency to be prepared, the real deadline is still a little ways into the future. If you're a SoftLayer customer, it's pretty easy for you to take part in your own World IPv6 Day: Provision your free IPv6 /64 on your server and start using them.

I encourage you to set goals for IPv6 functionality for the near future so you don't find yourself scrambling for a solution when you can't get any new IPv4 addresses. Don't let the fact that ARIN still has 5.20 IPv4 /8s in aggregate lull you into inaction ... The well will run dry, and the sooner you're ready for it, the better. Would your business be ready to flip the switch to IPv6 on June 8?

-Will

January 21, 2011

What Does IPv4 Exhaustion Mean for You?

THE SKY IS FALLING! EVERYBODY MOOOOOOVVVVEEEE! WWWHHHYYY??!! OH THE HUMANITY!!!

Are those your reactions to the depletion of IPv4 space? Probably not. If you haven't seen the IPv4 Exhaustion Rate countdown in the sidebar of SoftLayer.com, head over there and check it out ... At the current rate, there will be ZERO unallocated IPv4 blocks by the middle of February 2011, and that's not a good thing for the Internet as we know it.

Will you need to move your servers into a bomb shelter to protect your now-even-more-valuable IP addresses? Will Google stop Googling? Will there be riots in the streets as over-caffeinated sysadmins flip cars and topple dilapidated buildings in pursuit of lost 32-bit addresses? What does it really mean for you as a hosting customer and web surfer?

The sky won't fall. Your servers are safe in their data centers. Google will still Google. Sysadmins will still be working hard at their desks. But the belt is going to start tightening, and after a while, it might get pretty uncomfortable.

What's Really Happening

All of these IPv4 Exhaustion Rate counters are loosely tracking the IPv4 space that hasn't been allocated by the International Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to a Regional Internet Registry. The Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) are ARIN (USA and Canada), LACNIC (Latin America, South America and Caribbean), RIPE NCC (Predominantly Europe and Russia), AFRINIC (Africa) and APNIC (Asia Pacific).

When the IANA gives out its last block of IPv4 addresses, every available IPv4 address will be allocated to one of these registries. And that's when the fun will really start. Since SoftLayer operates primarily out of the United States of America, for simplicity's sake, we'll use ARIN as we talk about the next steps for RIRs.

Anyone who's requested large blocks of IPv4 space in the past few years can attest to the significant changes in the request process. Additional justification is required, you have to be using a certain percentage of the IPv4 space you've already been provisioned and you have to get in line.

When the IANA IPv4 address space is exhausted, regional registries like ARIN will still have space available, and that space is all they're going to get. As a result, it'll probably be even harder to get get large blocks of space from those registries.

SoftLayer requests IPv4 space from ARIN for our customers. As ARIN slows the distribution of IPv4 space with additional requirements, it'll be more difficult for providers like SoftLayer to get additional space. In the same way ARIN orders IPv4 space to have stock for SoftLayer to request, SoftLayer has a pool of IPv4 addresses already assigned to us that we provision to our customers' servers.

In Short:

  1. ARIN won't be able to get any more IPv4 space from IANA.
  2. It will be more difficult for SoftLayer to get IPv4 space from ARIN.
  3. It will be more difficult for customers to get IPv4 space from SoftLayer.

How long will ARIN be able to maintain a reserve of IPv4 in the midst of qualified need in the region? How long will SoftLayer continue to receive requested IPv4 address blocks from ARIN? How long will SoftLayer's pool of IPv4 addresses last for our customers? These questions don't have definite answers yet, but for ARIN and SoftLayer, the general answer is "As long as possible."

What Does that Mean for You?

In the short term, it depends. If you find yourself in need of a huge block of IPv4 addresses, you're going to run into a lot more trouble. If you're just ordering a server and need one public IPv4 address, you might not notice much of a difference. If you're somewhere in between, you might see a few changes as we tighten our belts in response to the belts above us being tightened.

In the long term, it means you should prioritize IPv6 adoption. You can run IPv6 in parallel with IPv4 on your SoftLayer servers, and we'll do our best to help you understand how to implement IPv6 in your environment. IPv6 needs to be in the back of your mind as you create new applications and prepare to scale your business.

Consider the possibility that you'll never be able to get another IPv4 address when IANA runs out of IPv4 space. What will that do for your business? How would that change your development priorities? What are the IPv6 plans for the mission-critical hardware/software vendors you use?

IPv6 traffic is only a small fraction of overall Internet traffic right now, but you can be sure that as IPv4 space is harder and harder to come by as you move down the funnel, IPv6 traffic is going to grow exponentially. The work you do in preparing for that will need to be done now or later. It's a lot easier to start working on it now than to wait until you need it ... by that time, it'll already be too late.

-@khazard

Categories: 
November 26, 2010

The End is Near!

On February 4th, 2009, I told you that IPv4 address space is running out and that IPv6 is here to replace it.

As of this writing, there are about 218 days worth of IPv4 address space remaining, and the usage rate is still accelerating. Before you know it, there won’t be any more new IP space to allocate, and between now and then you will see much more strict rules applied to handing out addresses.

Of course these rules are not imposed by SoftLayer, but by IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. IANA controls IPv4 address space that is doled out to regional registries. IANA already imposes some pretty hefty regulations on how and when IPv4 space is handed out, but the regional registries in some cases are even more difficult to obtain addresses from.

This is by design, and is (despite frustrations otherwise) a good thing. If IANA had not put regulations in place or tightened the regulations as we went along, we would have run out of addresses quite a long time ago. Long before IPv6 was ready. Just to put it into perspective- there are more internet-connected devices in the world today than there are IPv4 addresses and an estimated 22 billion by 2020.

As I mentioned 21 months ago, SoftLayer has native IPv6 support on all networks in all datacenters. We also give you IPv6 address space in large chunks, and free of charge.

Since then, my home ISP provides me native IPv6 support across the wire, and my home PCs all have IPv6 addresses on their interfaces. In the event that websites or network services report an “AAAA” record in DNS, my systems at home prefer the IPv6 path over the IPv4 path. My personal servers share an IPv6 /64 subnet.

While the address space is waning, IPv4 isn’t going to die because of it. Not yet, at least. As more people adopt IPv6, it will tend to free up IPv4 address space for those of us who still enjoy playing old games or using old software that cannot or will not ever be updated for the new protocol.

Before the addresses run out, before new sites come online that are forced to use IPv6 with no native IPv4 access, check to see if your ISP for your home or business is already providing you native IPv6 capability. If they don’t, pick up a phone and ask why. If they don’t know, choose a new provider.

SoftLayer already has you covered. And we have a countdown timer on the home page www.softlayer.com to keep you up to date.

The end is near!!! (For IPv4 at least)

-Justin

September 3, 2008

IPv4 vs. Big Oil

Everyone is complaining about the price of gas at the pump. It’s a plain fact that it cost more than it used to fill up. Why is that? If you picked a handful of economists at random you will likely get a different story from each of them. One often mentioned of late is the oil speculators market. Not being a business guy, I hadn’t really ever paid attention to the oil futures market; much less the futures market in general. The speculation on oil prices got me thinking. Why do people think oil is going to go up in the future?

Most likely because it is a finite resource, and at some point it will become unobtainable through reasonable means. I personally think that the advances in technology will keep the black gold flowing for quite a while, but I am no where near naïve enough to believe that an infinite amount of oil can be contained within the finite confines of the globe we call Earth. Still, there is enough out there either undiscovered or untapped to keep our civilization plugging along well after Al Gore has melted all the ice caps with his private jet.

This led me to consider the impending depletion of the IPv4 address pool. Unlike the supply of magical natural resource oil, the available IPv4 address space cannot be augmented by new technology. There are no hidden underground caches to be found. It’s not like an expedition of the coast of Chile will stick a pipe in the ground and IP addresses will start spewing out. For IPv4, what you see is what you get, and what I see is the last 20% of a shrinking pool.

In theory, the answer is easy. Everyone just needs to jump on the new IPv6 train instead of riding around in their old fashioned IPv4 cars. The practicality of that solution is not quite that simple. That fancy IPv6 train is very limited right now. It currently requires special tracks, and they only go certain places, none of which is grandma’s house. Ultimately, user demand will force local ISPs to start supporting IPv6. In the great dance known as capitalism, they ISPs will bow to user demand and provide this service. However, between now and that future lies a pinch.

It’s that last squeeze of toothpaste before you have to run to the store and get another tube. The hosting industry, being the most voracious of IPv4 address consumers, is actively working towards IPv6 deployment. The real question is how long until the home ISPs start supporting it. All the address space in the world doesn’t help if the consumers can’t browse there. And to that end, doesn’t all that legacy IPv4 address space become a precious commodity? In the not so distant future, is there a speculative market for IPv4 real-estate? I see it as a real possibility. I just wouldn’t want to be the one owning that venture when the last telecom announces IPv6 support.

-Matt

Categories: 
October 11, 2007

The Three P's are Changing

The three P's in the hosting world have always been Ping, Power and Pipe. Salespeople regurgitated them relentlessly and operations personnel just shortened them to the P's because we talked about them all the time. The three P's of hosting have changed in the recent years and those not aware of the changing landscape are doomed for failure. I propose a new three P standard (described below).

1) Power -- I list this one first because it is by far the most important. Power is the single greatest limiting factor to technology. If you don't understand the importance of power on future technology, you should exit the industry now. If you are not concerned with power, don't meter power and not fixated with power, you will be in serious trouble in the next 12 to 24 months. The entire industry has shifted to being "green" and large scale datacenter operators are so focused on power utilization, they are building and designing systems completely based on power usage and/or location. It's one of the most critical operating costs and must be understood to maximize long term success and profitability. Here at SoftLayer, we are obsessed with power utilization and efficiency and focus on mitigating power and heat (byproduct of power) to a bare minimum. We know the power usage of every server and network device located in the datacenter and track it real time. We are continuously seeking new low power technologies, engaged in industry consortiums looking for new alternatives, and actively planning our power needs through the end of 2010.

2) Packets -- Five years ago, the internet backbones were full of big fat packets that were easily passed by backbone and edge routers without issue. In the recent years, small packet technologies have greatly reduced the size of the average packet transversing the internet. For those of n00bs out there, smaller packets reduce the overall throughput of the routers processing the packets. The smaller the packets, the greater the reduction in horsepower of those routers. The fast rise in gaming, VOIP and other small packet intense applications has cut the average packet size in half in the last two years and I would expect that to occur again the next two years. Packet size can take the aggregate throughput of a router from several hundred gigs at large packet sizes to potentially single digits of gigabit throughput due to the processing required. Here at SoftLayer, we have installed and upgraded to the fastest routing technologies by Cisco to ensure the greatest network performance, but there are many legacy carrier, broadband, and enterprise routers out there that have limited capacity due to changing packet size. Hosting providers that were built on eBay surplus network equipment from the late 90's will soon begin to implode.

3) IP's (IP Addresses) -- Ok…not really a "P" but I take a little creative leeway here. IPv4 addresses are disappearing faster than norm's plate at the Hungry Heifer. ARIN has publically announced the need to shift to IPv6 and numerous articles have outlined the D-Day for IPv4 space. Most experts agree, its coming fast and that it will occur sometime in 2010 at the current pace (that's about two years for those counting). IPv6 brings enough IP space for an infinite number of users along with improved security features and several other operational efficiencies that will make it very popular. The problem lies between getting from IPv4 to IPv6. We are caught in this "chicken and egg" scenario where we can't leave one without the other being completely reliable. Although I think we will get to IPv6 without too much of a headache, I do think the IPv4 space will become extinct prior to a full scale transition and there will be a time where the cost of IPv4 IP's will skyrocket because of supply/demand. This should be at the top of your list as a hosting provider because additional IP space typically means new customer and/or expansion of existing customers. If you don't have a conservation plan for IPv4, migration plan for IPv6, and transition plan between the two – you may already be too late. Here at SoftLayer, we have been planning for over a year and 2008 will include a rollout of IPv6 to all those customers who seek to run dual stacks and will include incentives to customers who are able to shift to IPv6 completely.

The Three P's will likely change again in a few years as the industry continues to evolve and we find a way to solve the current challenges facing the industry. For now, focus and plan on these three and you should have a long successful existence.

-@lavosby

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