Firstly, head over to Packet Pushers and read Ethan’s excellent blog post about The Reason Enterprises Aren’t Deploying IPv6. This post made me start thinking about IPv6 adoption, especially in light of the things I talked about almost 8 months ago in front of a group of education IT professionals. In his post, Ethan discusses the problem with IPv6 in the enterprise from the perspective of it being more trouble than it’s worth right now. I agree with him that there are a lot of issues to overcome today for very little immediate gain. Today’s IPv6 implementations are still relegated to a lab or to the IT department network where they can be contained and properly tested. I’d wager that Hurricane Electric tunnels is the most common method of IPv6 support right now. It’s still very much a “hobby kit” type of implementation where the nerd spends several hours pouring over documentation and expends energy typing furiously at a dimly lit console only to finish up and say, “Cool. It works.” No fanfare, no raise. Just the satisfaction of a hard job well done. So how do we change that?
In college, I studied Management Information Systems, which is a fancy way of spelling Database Administrator. I promptly forgot all my DBA training, but the Introduction to Database class was a goldmine of information thanks to my wonderful professor, Dr. Traci Carte. She once told me that there are basically two ways to motivate people in business: fear and greed. The more time I spend in the business world, the more I see that she had a good point. Those two emotions tend to be pretty strong and are great motivators for people that wouldn’t ordinarily be compelled to take action.
When it comes to IPv6, we’ve already tried to motivate through fear. If you remember any of the headlines from earlier this year you’ll agree that the Chicken Little mentality of the IPv4 sky falling down on us was reaching a fever pitch quickly. It even made the local nightly news, which of course made my mom call and wonder when her computer was going to blow up. Unfortunately, fear didn’t work here. Why not? Because there wasn’t a consequence. It’s like announcing that an asteroid is going to hit the earth tomorrow. If we make to the end of the day and no big rock comes down in our front yard, we just go back to life as it was. When ICANN depleted their IPv4 prefixes and the Internet just kept working the next day, the rank-and-file users went right back to watching cat videos on Youtube without a care in the world. After all, how bad can this problem be if there are still cat videos?
I think it’s time we move to motivator #2 – greed. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. And greed can work for you. IPv6 isn’t a compelling case when you tell your boss that most everyone can still use the Internet with no issues. The key is that “most everyone” statement. As APNIC and ARIN begin to deplete their reserves of IPv4 prefixes, the cost to acquire them will start skyrocketing. For those not willing to pay a king’s ransom for a /28, there has to be an alternative. Based on my distaste for things like carrier-grade NAT or NAT64, I would hope that pure IPv6 prefixes would start to be handed out. Assuming that NAT64 does end up getting used as a necessary evil for those newly-minted prefixes, are we to assume that it’s going to work all the time? What happens when there are hiccups or outages? Only pure IPv6 sites will be available. Right now, that’s Facebook or Google. Greed comes into play when you can convince your decision makers to implement IPv6 to reach those customers. If your widget is the only one those IPv6-only users can find when they search http://ipv6.google.com then you are going to have a competitive advantage over everyone else. This might be a wash up front when you think about the costs needed to plan and implement IPv6 versus the additional revenue from those IPv6 only users. However, we aren’t going to slow down our ravenous consumption of IPv4 addresses any time soon. As more and more customers come online with native IPv6 support, they’re going to be surfing an Internet where you don’t have a presence. First-to-market has a whole new meaning here.
Another avenue of greed to appeal to is the ego of a company and its decision makers when it comes to IPv6 implementation. The same kind of mentality that drives executives to drive fancy cars and wear expensive accessories can be manipulated to drive adoption of new protocols. Comments like, “Wouldn’t you like to be known as the first CxO to make their website ready for IPv6 in this market?” or “I hear that <competitor> is working on an IPv6 implementation and I’d like to beat them to it.” work on the ego of people that love attention and want to be known as leaders in their industry. Giving them another headline or accolade plays right into their desire for recognition and gets you the time and resources needed to plan your implementation of IPv6.
This may seem a little like gamesmanship to some. You may disagree with me boiling things down to simplistic terms. You may even think I’m a bit crazy for thinking that someone can be manipulated into implementing new technology solely by appealing to their desire for money and recognition. However, until a real business case materializes for IPv6, it won’t really get implemented. And until it is more pervasive, real business cases won’t materialize. A classic Catch-22 scenario. Something has to give. It’s time to draw a line in the sand. Maybe I have to spend a little more time stroking egos or building a compelling business case instead of typing away on a keyboard or working in Visio. If I can drive IPv6 implementation along by playing a few head games now and then, I think I can sleep well at night knowing I made the world a slightly better place one /48 at a time.