IPv6 - General Information
Stargate Connections is currently in a pilot phase for providing IPv6 connectivity to customer end sites. This page provides general, introductory information about IPv6 connectivity as a whole and specifically for Stargate customers. If you are looking for more technical details on IPv6 connectivity for Stargate customers, please see the IPv6 Technical Information page.
- How is IPv6 different from how I access the Internet now (regular IPv4)?
- Are we really running out of IPv4 addresses?
- Is Stargate running out of IPv4 address?
- Why is Stargate deploying IPv6 now?
- Can I still get more IPv4 addresses from Stargate if I need them?
- Why can't I just keep using IPv4? I have enough IPs and NAT is working fine for me.
- Will I lose my IPv4 addresses or connectivity if I get IPv6 connectivity from Stargate?
- I heard there is no NAT in IPv6; how will I protect my network?
- How many IPv6 IPs will I get from Stargate?
- How can I tell if I have IPv6?
What is IPv6 anyway, and why do we need it?
Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the current version of the protocol used for communication between hosts on the Internet. When people talk about plain "IP" at this point, that generally refers to the previous version of the Internet Protocol, IPv4. IPv6 is intended to replace IPv4.
IPv6 was created to deal with IPv4 address exhaustion. Briefly: IPv4 provides about 4.3 billion (2^32) addresses, and we have many more computers and hosts than that on the Internet, meaning not all hosts on the Internet can have a unique, globally-reachable IPv4 address. Network Address Translation (NAT) was created as a measure to still allow users to connect to the IPv4 Internet even without globally unique IPv4 addresses on each host, though with some trade-offs like breaking end-to-end connectivity.
IPv6 was created as the long term replacement for IPv4, with sufficient address space for all hosts to again have globally unique addresses.
How is IPv6 different from how I access the Internet now (regular IPv4)?
For the most part, it really is not much different. In the simplest example of browsing to a web page, the user or the browser basically don't even know the difference. A user will visit a URL, e.g http://www.stargate.ca, and DNS client on the user's computer will figure out to what IP address that resolves. If a given website (host) has both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, either can be used. If the user's network supports IPv6, that will generally be preferred, and the browser will fetch the page over IPv6. This all happens completely transparently to the user.
If a site or service is accessed by its IP address directly, e.g. 192.0.2.2 or 192.168.1.1, those applications would have to be accessed either via their IPv6 addresses directly, or by setting up a DNS name that resolves to both its IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.
There may be some applications that need to be updated to work with IPv6, though these will generally continue to work fine on IPv4 if the user is dual stacked (see Will I lose my IPv4 addresses or connectivity if I get IPv6 connectivity from Stargate?).
Are we really running out of IPv4 addresses?
The short version? Yes.
The long version:
A number of Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) are responsible for allocating IP addresses to organizations based on geographical region. The RIRs, in turn, get their IP allocations from The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is responsible for the global IP address pool. The last unallocated IP address space was allocated to the RIRs by IANA in February of 2011. By July 20th, 2015, ARIN (the RIR responsible for North America) had only two /24 IPv4 networks remaining in its free IP pool (link). That is only 512 IP addresses.
On September 24, 2015, ARIN announced that the IPv4 free address pool for the ARIN region was officially depleted. Post-exhaustion measures have kicked in so that IANA is trying to "recycle" fragmented IP space to allocate to the RIRs, and grey markets have popped up for IPv4 addresses to basically be sold and traded between organizations.
Is Stargate running out of IPv4 address?
Not yet. Stargate does have an existing set of IPv4 allocations that do still leave room for new connections and additional allocations, as well as additional steps we can take to optimize usage to free up some additional space if needed.
Why is Stargate deploying IPv6 now?
In large part, we are starting the effort now in order to give our customers and partners time to become familiar and comfortable with IPv6 on their networks. Turning up IPv6 connectivity to residential and wireless networks can often be done with little to no notice to the users as there is little chance for disruption. On business networks, support teams want to be aware of what is happening on their network and need to confirm that their network and applications are prepared to support IPv6 securely and without risk of breakage.
We also understand that different network and firewall vendors' equipment may have different caveats in IPv6 support, and so we are working with our customers and partners to identify these "gotchas" to help smooth the transition as IPv6 is deployed.
Finally, enabling IPv6 on a large number of business networks will not happen overnight. Stargate wants to start that conversation with our customers now so that, when IPv4 scarcity and performance issues start to become more of a problem, our customers are already connected to the IPv6 Internet and comfortable with running IPv6 in their networks.
Can I still get more IPv4 addresses from Stargate if I need them?
Yes. That said, additional allocations are done "as needed". Stargate has to scrutinize customer IPv4 usage so that addresses are not allocated trivially. Requests for large blocks of addresses (/28 or more) will likely be subject to some additional scrutiny to confirm a customer's need for a larger number of addresses.
Why can't I just keep using IPv4? I have enough IPs and NAT is working fine for me.
For now. Full IPv4 connectivity is becoming slower and less feature-full , as well as more expensive to maintain than IPv6 connectivity.
We have already passed the point that native IPv4 connectivity is universally available. Large mobile carriers (especially in the U.S.) are already running out of available IPv4 addresses and are rolling out networks that have native IPv6 connectivity only, with transition mechanisms put in place to provide IPv6-only phones and devices with connectivity to IPv4 networks. New, startup network providers are struggling to obtain IPv4 address space and are needing to resort to more and more layers of network address translation (NAT) to provide at least basic IPv4 connectivity to their customers.
Previously, we were seeing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) add technology and equipment to their networks to squeeze more customers into their existing IPv4 space, while starting to look at providing some basic IPv6 connectivity "soon". We are now seeing that shift to solutions that provide full IPv6 connectivity first and then add IPv4 connectivity as a legacy service on top of that IPv6 connectivity.
The gist of all these developments is that service providers will still have to provide their customers with at least some IPv4 connectivity for the foreseeable future, but it is becoming increasingly complex (and expensive) to do that. This overhead impacts performance, to the point that IPv6 connectivity already performs noticeably faster in some networks. That performance difference will only become more pronounced. As the cost of getting full IPv4 connectivity goes up, we will reach a tipping point where organizations will have to decide whether they should pay more to make their services (web sites; email; corporate web applications) available over IPv4, or whether enough of their users can reach those services through IPv6 alone that adding IPv4 doesn't make financial sense anymore.
Will I lose my IPv4 addresses or connectivity if I get IPv6 connectivity from Stargate?
No. Stargate customers will keep all of their IPv4 connectivity and are also given IPv6 connectivity in parallel. Customers will access IPv4 content over IPv4 just as they do today, but will also be able to reach sites and services via IPv6.
I heard there is no NAT in IPv6; how will I protect my network?
NAT was brought about to try to help address the shortage of IPv4 IP addresses. There is no such shortage in IPv6, and so "overloaded" NAT (where multiple IPs in a network share one or more "outside" IP addresses) is not available in IPv6.
That said: NAT is not a firewall.
Most customer and small business Internet gateways bundle together NAT and firewall features in a single box, and so an association exists between "NAT" and "firewalling". However: if you remove NAT from the equation, the firewalling can still remain.
For more technical details, see the IPv6 Technical Information page.
How many IPv6 IPs will I get from Stargate?
It is simpler to ask "how many IPv6 networks will I get from Stargate". The default endpoint network size in IPv6 allows for 2^64 addresses. That's 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IPs per network, basically meaning that the risk of running out of available IP addresses in a subnet are, well, pretty slim.
Stargate is following original standards body recommendations of allocating a /48 network per site. This allows for 65,536 networks at each site. This may seem excessive, but the intention with this policy is to not hamper innovation in networks with small allocations based on how things were done in IPv4. We are already seeing some network equipment and applications sub-dividing networks automatically to make use of the larger address space. By providing larger allocations now, Stargate is reducing the chances that we would have to change customers' IPv6 allocations in the future.
How can I tell if I have IPv6?
The simplest way to tell if you already have IPv6 connectivity is to visit http://test-ipv6.com. The site will have your browser perform a series of tests to confirm if IPv6 is working on your computer or mobile device. Stargate also offers a browser information page at http://myip.stargate.ca, which will display your IP address (whether IPv4 or IPv6).