REANNZ lives the IPv6 story

By Campbell Gardiner

New Zealand’s Research and Education Advanced Network (REANNZ) was one of this country’s earliest adopters of IPv6, having implemented the protocol on its national backbone, dubbed KAREN, in 2006. By the following year the organisation had gone a step further, deploying internally on its office network, DNS,  and video-conferencing system.

The Crown-owned company’s internal transition to IPv6 went off without a hitch. Network Operations Specialist David Brownlie says, for some staff, the address schema took a little getting used to, but turning it on involved a mere four lines of code!

REANNZ is well and truly living IPv6. This way of life even extends to its in-house skills – not only are its network personnel fully-schooled in IPv6, the organisation recently hired a Computer Science graduate who is au-fait with IPv6, having been exposed to the protocol in every year of his course.

Brownlie notes that there can be a degree of tension between IT decision-makers who were brought up in the IPv4 world and those such as REANNZ’s new graduate living in an all-fibre IPv6 world. But, as time goes by, more network professionals, vendors and application developers are becoming familiar with the new protocol. It is then, he says, that adoption will really start ramping up.

More generally, IPv6 is not, nor has it ever been, an option. “Emerging economies in Asia are committing to widespread IPv6 adoption. Given the importance of trade links with the East, New Zealand organisations must follow suit,” says Brownlie.

REANNZ holds a significant amount of IPv6 address space, with two blocks of /32 – one for New Zealand’s research and tertiary education community and one for schools. Address space is provided free to members on sign-up.

The company has about 150 members. Only a dozen of these have deployed IPv6 in any meaningful way – the leaders tend to be large universities and Crown Research Institutes dealing with business partners in Asia.

While REANNZ doesn’t officially provide IPv6 advice as a member service, it assists where possible, and extols the virtues of IPv6 at every turn. But ultimately, says Brownlie, decisions need to be made internally by each member about what is best for their own organisation.

“It is important to align technology objectives with company objectives. In our experience, those of our members who have been early IPv6 adopters have been those with clear thinking about what they’re in the world to do.”

Much of the teeth-gnashing around IPv6 adoption comes down to persuasiveness of business case and cost. “It can be difficult to get big projects signed off unless there is large return on investment. And, what IPv6 adoption amounts to is a substitution of one functioning protocol with another. IPv4 already works, so, for many organisations, it is easy to mask the problem.”

Expense is another hurdle. Some REANNZ members have baulked when seeing the cost involved in wholesale IPv6 adoption. There is large value attached to firewalls, for instance. Many aren’t IPv6-ready and there is significant money involved in switching them out.

Brownlie suggests IPv6-enabling external applications initially and encourages organisations to experiment with the protocol. “At the moment, given the low level of IPv6 uptake, it’s a unique opportunity to multi-home with IPv4 and IPv6 and find out which applications will support IPv6 and which won’t.”

Make no mistake, the IPv4 protocol is nearly 50 years old and is starting to creak. “It’s an anomaly of the technology world that IPv4 has been used for so long. The entire ICT industry is geared towards adopting new technologies, yet we’ve coped for decades with the ancient way of addressing,” he says.

For more information about REANNZ’s IPv6 activity, including practical technical advice, visit:

One Comment

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  1. Brian Carpenter 08. Sep, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Um, that Karen URL is only accessible by IPv4. Somebody should be a bit red-faced about that…

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