Following last year’s successful World IPv6 Day, when many sites enabled IPv6 for one day, the Internet Society has declared June 6, 2012 as the World IPv6 Launch. This year, the focus has moved beyond testing to permanently enabling IPv6 on participants’ websites and networks.
Last year, Go Daddy enabled queries over IPv6 for the 10s of millions of DNS zones that we host. Since DNS is used to resolve virtually every website on the Internet, IPv6 support is a key component of the overall move to IPv6.
This year, in support of the World IPv6 Launch, Go Daddy has released our first IPv6-capable hosting product. We now offer dual-stack Linux Virtual Dedicated Servers. “Dual-stack” means that we configure these servers to communicate over both IPv4 and IPv6, by default. If you use one of these servers to host a website, clients will be able to connect the same way they always have over IPv4, but they can also use IPv6.
Although this capability is not yet in high demand, we worked hard to make it a reality. First, we had to provide an environment for our engineers where they could successfully develop and test IPv6. Lab environments are often built with old network gear that doesn’t support IPv6. So, a hardware upgrade was the first step, followed by new configurations for IPv6.
Engineers also needed to be able to use IPv6 from their workstations. Here, we found that you can’t simply plug an IPv6 address block into your old DHCP server. In fact, there is some learning required to even figure out how to divide up such a huge space of addresses (geek stat: IPv6 has 340 undecillion possible addresses).
Once you have the environment in place for developing IPv6 capable systems, the engineers can go to work. For hosting products, a lot of the work is inside the provisioning system that creates and upgrades a server when a customer makes a purchase. This system has to be able to configure an IPv6 address on a server in addition to an IPv4 address. Because IPv6 addresses are 128 bits long, the data structures often need to be changed. The size of IPv6 addresses can also require upgrades to underlying systems; especially databases where data types defined for IPv4 can’t handle the new addresses.
At the same time, we had to implement a new IP Address Management (IPAM) system. This is basically a very specialized database that helps us keep track of the IP addresses we have assigned to all of our systems, use them efficiently, and avoid duplicate address assignments, which are of course a really bad thing. In our case, we determined that our old IPAM system wasn’t easily upgradeable to IPv6 and had to be replaced. We then kicked off a significant project to evaluate, choose, implement, integrate, and roll out a new IPAM system.
Another track of work involved enabling IPv6 for all of our connections to the Internet. We had to work with multiple carriers, who were themselves in various stages of implementation, to configure and deploy IPv6 routing. Finally, we had to upgrade various pieces of our network hardware and software to IPv6 compatible versions, configure IPv6, and test it.
One more thing, but certainly not the least: security. We needed to upgrade and test all of the systems our security team uses to detect and block DDoS attacks and other types of malicious activity on our networks.
Deploying IPv6 is like upgrading the entire Internet. It’s a massive effort. But, it’s one that is necessary as the number of available IPv4 addresses continues to dwindle. If you haven’t started deploying IPv6, I encourage you to get busy and be prepared to learn from some challenges along the way. Meanwhile, here at Go Daddy, we’re committed to IPv6 and will continue to add support in our products and services in the future.