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InteropNet can deploy IPv6, and you should too

At Interop Las Vegas 2011, lead network engineer Glenn Evans of InteropNet—the network that supports the conference—learned to deploy IPv6. See what he learned in this Q&A.

Reasons to deploy IPv6 have never been so prevalent. If the IANA's IPv4 depletion hasn't scared you into an IPv6 transition, perhaps Glenn Evans, lead engineer of InteropNet—the network that supports Interop conferences—can provide some incentive. Rebuilding InteropNet for Interop Las Vegas 2011 has given him insight into deploying IPv6, something every enterprise, large and small, should begin to consider. Evans offered some tips on how to deploy IPv6, based on what he learned with InteropNet—a network which supports more than 350 vendors, 250 speakers and 13,000 attendees.

What are the most challenging aspects of InteropNet every year?

Glenn Evans: I think one of the constant challenges we have is more of a logistical one. We have 20 different providers, and we have to ensure all that stuff works together and is clean and functional.

The other challenge changes from year to year. We redesign every year to meet the messaging or goal of the InteropNet event. This year the event focuses on IPv6, data center, cloud environments and things like that. So when we redesign the InteropNet event—because it’s a demonstration platform—we take the show’s goal or the show’s messaging points into consideration when we’re designing and specifying what sort of equipment and systems to use within InteropNet.

What types of technologies are you using this year that are cutting-edge?

Evans: IPv6 is a big push for us this year. We gave back a large slice of IPv4 address space last year with the expressed intention of migrating the InteropNet to IPv6. That's one of the takeaways we wanted our attendees to have: IPv6, even though it’s been around for 10 years, is something that everybody should be looking at how to adopt. Now we're operationally fully IPv6-aware and compliant.

How have you decided to deploy IPv6 for InteropNet?

Evans: We’re actually running three separate IPv6 scenarios. Our whole network is dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 from our data centers, or our co-locations, right down to the endpoint wireless devices within the network, and that's our primary scenario.

[There were] two other secondary scenarios to demonstrate on the show floor conference space. The first one was IPv6-only, so we had a Wi-Fi area that … [was] v6 only. [This gave] the attendees an idea of the challenges you'll run into if you’re going to go v6 only now. It’s not to say that in the future things will be any different, but [it's to say] right now, here’s the current state of IPv6.

NAT64 is the other scenario where we’ll have a v6 environment, but run it through a NAT64 system. So [we] go out into the Internet in IPv4 and see what’s happening in that sort of environment as well.

Is one way to deploy IPv6 better than another in your experience with InteropNet?

Evans:  Because we essentially have the ability to build the network from scratch every time, it was easier for us to go dual-stack. We worked out a little algorithm where we could map the IPv6 space onto IPv4 space, or use similar nomenclature. [Using this to deploy IPv6] made it easier for the transmissions, so people who are used to thinking in v4 can start to think in v6 without a great problem. That’s probably the biggest challenge in doing anything in IPv6—just getting your head around the larger numbers: how they’re represented and how to do some basic designs.

Did you have to troubleshoot IPv6 addressing issues for vendors or attendees at InteropNet?

Evans: With our v6 system, we set up using stateless auto-configuration, or DHCPv6, so most of it was automatic. There was the expectation of dealing with some client issues. We knew that Mac OS, as an example, doesn’t do DHCPv6 yet. We knew Windows XP has a few challenges with IPv6, where Windows 7 has very minimal issues there. So we knew we were going to get some client-side problems…. [We were able to] sift out what problems we were going to see, how to fix them and how to do it quickly. We had the procedures in place to do that.

We’re fortunate that v6 has been around for 10 years, so a lot of people have worked on it and have been dealing with it. Most of the problems are known, so we’re not really going into any unchartered territory from a general Internet perspective. It’s just a little bit different from some of the normal challenges we have.

Continue this Q&A to learn how InteropNet balances cutting-edge technologies with network needs.

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