How can you ensure that when you enable IPv6, it achieves the same or better performance than IPv4 traffic?
This is a question is far too often raised rather late in the service lifecycle. Many organizations planning to enable IPv6 or deploying it assume that the process will be straightforward and performance will be similar to, if not better than, IPv6. The reality is quite different and is due to many factors.
While networking equipment for the most part has parity on performance for IPv4 and IPv6, inconsistent configurations, asymmetric traffic and resource distribution, and faulty transition mechanisms often times lead to poor performance over IPv6. However, let me be very clear here: This is not a problem with the protocol. These problems stem from the lack of consistent deployments, and the consequences are numerous, including the following:
- Poor user experience with your Web-based services
- Blacklisting from the AAAA resource records of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other popular Web properties
- User experience for internal or cloud-based services may be degraded
At Nephos6, we created an "IPv6 effectiveness" coefficient that considers the various factors involved in assessing the user experience over IPv6 vs. IPv4 -- after all, user experience is the metric that really matters. We found that many IPv6-enabled websites have a poor IPv6 performance globally and with significant variability across the world. For example, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's website, irs.gov, which was measured just before the deadline for filing income tax returns on April 15, 2013, consistently showed that 61% of IPv6-based queries were effective. We had anecdotal reports from people who actually experienced significant problems downloading tax forms because they were using IPv6 to access the site. In our tests, we observed inconsistency in service performance over time. We have also observed in other tests that Web properties hosted by a cloud provider go down for IPv6 and not for IPv4 for long periods of time without the provider even noticing it.
The point here is not that IPv6 enablement should be delayed; the adoption is inevitable and accelerating. The point is that enabling IPv6 without monitoring tools may cause significant harm to the business, and IPv6 has to be treated as a production service. You must establish a baseline for quality, and it must be monitored regularly. If you want to check and monitor the IPv6 effectiveness of your Web properties, try our free service, v6Sonar.
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This was first published in January 2014