Juniper Networks is accelerating its plan to support IPv6 on its public-facing website and web services, following criticism that the router maker was lagging rivals including Cisco Systems and Brocade Networks in this critical area.
IPv6 is the long anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is called IPv4. IPv6 is a necessary upgrade for website and network operators because the Internet this week ran out of address space using IPv4.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a much higher number of devices, 2 to the 128th power.
In November, Juniper said that it would support IPv6 traffic on its main website by September 2012, the same date that websites operated by US federal agencies are required to support IPv6.
In contrast, Brocade Networks began supporting IPv6 on its main website, brocade.net, last August, due to demands from the US military to do so. Also in August, Cisco set up a special-purpose IPv6-only website and said it was experimenting with techniques for supporting IPv6 on its main website in 2011.
With pressure mounting for network vendors to deploy the IPv6 products that they are selling to carriers and enterprises, Juniper said it has made IPv6-enabling its website a higher priority.
"This is not just about our website. This is about getting content available over IPv6," says Alain Durand, a well known IPv6 expert who recently joined Juniper as director of software engineering. "We are moving up our deadline because we need to show we have a story on all fronts [of IPv6]... Getting content out over IPv6 is one of the main issues around deployment of this technology."
Lost in translation
On Monday, Juniper said it has set up a special website, ipv6.juniper.net, that can handle IPv6 traffic immediately using a novel application of one of the company's routers that it is calling "Translator in the Cloud.''
Juniper is using its own Carrier-Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT) offering that was announced in November to translate IPv6 requests for IPv4 content.
Juniper spokesman Greg Friedmann said the necessary technologies for the "Translator in the Cloud" application are in the current CGNAT solution running Junos 10.4, but that this solution hasn't been productized for general market delivery.
"We're inviting our customers to work with us in trial deployments to deliver the 'Translator in the Cloud' solution to work in their network environments," Friedmann said.
Durand says the "Translator in a Cloud" approach allowed Juniper to deploy IPv6 services quickly for the cost of a dedicated router.
"We [used] the CGNAT box to take the IPv6 traffic and translate it into regular IPv4 traffic and send it to our IPv4 website," Durand says. "It's the entire content made available over IPv6 very, very quickly. It only took us a couple of days."
Durand says Juniper is studying the "Translator in a Cloud" approach to see if it causes any delays or other performance problems for IPv6 users when used in conjunction with Juniper's Content Delivery Network (CDN) service.
"We are trying to measure the delay and measure the bandwidth impact," Durand says. "We're trying to figure out the best network architecture to get the maximum performance. What we're also trying to do is see how it combines with traditional CDN networks."
Durand says he believes Juniper is the first network company to try IPv6-to-IPv4 translation in the cloud, rather than on a network device sitting in front of the web server. In contrast, Brocade uses its own load balancers to act as translators between IPv6 and IPv4 traffic.
"We can do this translation anywhere in the network," Durand says. "We don't have to touch the equipment in the data center. We have the translation in one data center and the Web site in another data center. It's a proof of point that you can have this translator anywhere. This makes it very, very fast to deploy because you don't have to touch" any of the network infrastructure.
Juniper is highlighting its "Translator in a Cloud" approach because it wants to demonstrate a range of offerings that can help carriers and enterprises gradually migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 over the next few years in the simplest and most cost effective manner.
"We need to show all the options we have. It's not about jumping straight to IPv6," Durand says. "IPv4 service delivery is something that is going to continue. We are trying to leverage all kinds of solutions that use IPv6 to better deploy IPv4 services. We're trying to create a network that is an underlying network of IPv6 and we overlay IPv4."
Durand says the news that the unallocated pool of IPv4 addresses were depleted this week was a significant milestone.
"What we're seeing now is an inflection point in the evolution of the Internet," Durand says. "The sky is not falling, but we will need to keep the Internet going. We're not doing a cut-over to a new technology, and we cannot abandon IPv4. We need to create this continuum of solutions to keep IPv4 [stable] and at the same time enable IPv6."
In related news, Juniper said it will participate in World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of IPv6 that is being sponsored by the Internet Society. Participants in World IPv6 Day, including Juniper rivals Cisco and A10 Networks, agree to enable IPv6 on their main websites on June 8.
"On June 8 we will have our full web content on juniper.net available over IPv6," Durand says. "For June 8, we are still looking at a number of solutions including 'Translator in a Cloud.' We are working with our CDN provider to use a trial service that they are offering."
Durand says Juniper will enable IPv6 on its main website permanently "as soon as possible" after World IPv6 Day, followed by supporting IPv6 on its e-mail services.
One goal of World IPv6 Day is to measure how many Internet users will be unable to access websites that support both IPv6 and IPv4, a problem that network engineers refer to as "IPv6 brokenness.''
Estimates that 0.05% of Internet users, or 1 million people worldwide, could be shut out of IPv6-enabled websites because of misconfigured gear has prompted worries among Yahoo, Google and other large content providers.
The issue of IPv6 brokenness doesn't worry Juniper, however.
"I think the 0.05% number is really low ... and I think the real number is much lower than that," Durand says. "I'm really interested in World IPv6 Day because we can measure this number."