It’s been *checks watch* about 38 minutes since I last thought about NAT, so it’s probably time to sit down and write some more about it. I’ve got an image to uphold after all. I wrote about my position on NAT a couple of posts ago, and in it I discussed NAT64. I railed against it much the same as introducing any kind of NAT into IPv6. Ivan Pepelnjak, a very well respected and frighteningly intelligent networking rock star, listened to the Packet Pushers show that fueled my rant and read my blog post. He then posted an article where he takes NAT64 and puts it into proper perspective. I read through it, and guess what?
He’s absolutely right.
Yep, Ivan nailed that one. NAT64, which is the process of translating IPv6 addresses into IPv4 addresses, has a use when it comes to allowing the IPv6 Internet to access content that is still stuck on the IPv4 Internet. Without some sort of translation mechanism, those IPv6-only hosts will be walled off from the IPv4 Internet in general. The other methods he discusses are either completely insane, like Carrier-grade NAT (NAT444), or are impractical from a support standpoint, like dual-stacking. I happen to think dual-stacking is the way to go with this, but I don’t want to be the local ISP trying to support a D-Link router running a dual stack when someone’s mom calls for support.
Ivan’s final point of the article hits home in a way that should make people sit up and pay attention. “The proper way to tackle this issue is to make your content available over IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 clients won’t notice it and IPv6 clients will use native IPv6 connectivity bypassing NAT64.” He’s spot on with this one too. If you build your content aware of both IPv4 and IPv6, you won’t have any real issues when it comes to IPv6-only hosts. I’m going to take this one step further, though. Let me ask a question that I think really cuts to the heart of the Internet in general when it comes to content creation and consumption:
What content would you access that is IPv4-only?
Right now, that question would be answered with “everything”, since IPv6 adoption is spotty at best. However, with World IPv6 Day looming in less than a month, the sponsor list is growing quickly. Google, Yahoo, & Facebook are already on board, and 163 more companies are ready to flip the switch as well. If you think about it, there’s a great importance that should be attached to making your content IPv6 accessible. In my IPv6 presentation, I talked about the impact of new content providers in the APNIC region creating things that you won’t be able to see if you are on the IPv4 Internet, since they are out of IPv4 addresses totally at this point, for all intents and purposes. However, look at it from the perspective of an IPv4-only content provider. You’ve got all this great content that you want to serve out to your audience. Many of your audience members are starting to hear about IPv6 and wonder how it will be implemented. More still, like those in the APNIC region, are unable to view your IPv4 content right now. For those hopping on the IPv6-only Internet, it probably looks a lot like it did back in Vint Cerf’s day – a whole lot of nothing. If you want to stake your claim for your content, are you going to wait for someone to come out with a NAT64 appliance? Are you going to sit around until an IPv6-to-IPv4 transition is possible on a load balancer? If you are, you had best start packing up your office, because you won’t stick around for long. The handwriting is already on the wall.
World of Warcraft, the largest Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) enabled IPv6 connectivity in their recent v4.1.0 patch. They’ve been talking about it since March. Now, those 10 million subscribers won’t have to worry about NAT64 if they get assigned an IPv6-only prefix. They’ll just keep on playing the same way they’ve always played. I think it’s going to end up being the same for 75% of the services that you use today. Things like e-mail, calendaring, and popular websites will be IPv6 ready well ahead of any kind of IPv4 exhaustion. Those that rely on advertising revenue won’t hesitate to get IPv6 enabled so as to not lose out on an untapped market of IPv6-only hosts.
NAT isn’t pretty. It’s a necessary evil. It has uses, and as Ivan pointed out they can be pretty important to keep the content-rich Internet from looking like a barren desert. But at the same time, there is a path away from the need to slap a NAT64 band-aid on things. By enabling IPv6 now, you avoid the expense and hassle of needing to wait for NAT64 to be finalized and argued about until the vendors are blue in the face. You, as a content provider, can serve your content and ads and subscriptions to a whole new world of consumers in this new land of opportunity while the IPv4-only world gets left by the wayside, trying to figure out how to patch the problem rather than fixing it right the first time.
As a side note here, if you are at all interested in IPv6 and its implementation and impact, you need to sign up for Ivan’s excellent webinars. He’s a genius when it comes to MPLS, IPv6, and datacenter networking. In fact, do yourself a favor and save money by just buying a subscription to all of them. At $199, it might sound like a pricey purchase, but since you’re going to want to listen to everything he’s got to say, it works out to be a great investment in your future.