Experts, ISPs and IPv6

Experts are experts for a reason. They spend their lives thinking, experimenting, implementing, while the rest of us are watching Big Brother.

Suppose little Johnny has a forty-degree temperature, is foaming at the mouth and covered in green lumps, and the doctor says, ‘Well, would you like me to use flucloxacillin or phenoxymethylpenicillin? It’s up to you.’

You’d say, ‘Are you nuts? You’re the doctor – just fix little Johnny.’

Suppose the bridge you use to get to work every day is creaking ominously, and the engineer says, ‘Now, you tell me what sort of matrix finite-element analysis you’d like me to use for the structural load analysis. You decide.’

You’d say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the engineer – just repair the bridge.’

Suppose you hear the Internet’s being switched to a new addressing system needed for continued growth, and the ISP says, ‘Now, you tell me if you want your traffic via a 32-bit protocol due to become obsolete in a few years or a 128-bit protocol that’ll support emerging global markets and mobile innovation. Your choice.’

You’d say, ‘Why ask me? You’re the ISP – just keep the Internet working.

Actually, ISPs don’t even say anything so helpful. You’re more likely to get, ‘Internet’s still working today for me. Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ Or (in a whingy voice), ‘Well, customers aren’t asking for IPv6, so we’re not going to do it till they do.’

Uh-huh. When did it become the customer’s responsibility to make decisions for ISP networks? Configure the routers? Back-up the databases? Internet service providers (small clue there) are supposed to be the experts at this Intertubes thingy, not their customers.

The Director of Transport and Routing Engineering at Telstra, David Robertson, said as recently as March this year: “As stocks of IPv4 addresses diminish globally, we need to commence moving to the new addressing system. By dual stacking IPv4 and IPv6 in our network, customers can opt into IPv6 in their own time … When customers are ready to make the move to IPv6 we’ll be there to help them.”

Someone needs to point out to Mr Robertson that stocks of unallocated IPv4 addresses for Australia are more than ‘diminished’, i.e. they’re gone, as of April last year. But how comforting to know Telstra will be there to help customers when those dear little rascals decide, all by themselves, they need a shiny new Internet Protocol.

The Telstra that’s quivering with joy at the prospect of helping us move to IPv6 doesn’t quite gel with their page on IPv6, which tells their enterprise network clients ‘You can rest assured that in the foreseeable future … IPv6 capability will only be provided at your request.’ (There, there, don’t worry. No-one’s going to make you use that beastly, ickky thing.)

What they should be saying, loudly, is, ‘We’re the experts. We’ve done all the work to make this happen so smoothly you won’t even notice the changeover. Enjoy.’

To be fair, Telstra actually has a page on IPv6. Not many other local ISPs do. So why am I picking on Telstra? Because they still control an overwhelming share of the Australian market. If they’d ever made a serious public move towards IPv6, every other ISP would have rushed to follow them – what a missed opportunity for the country! And I have no doubt Telstra has many dedicated network engineers who’ve argued the need for IPv6 for a long time. I can only assume they’ve been ignored for just about as long.

Like the generals who thought they could re-fight World War II in Vietnam, the managers who thought they were pretty flash getting their heads around dotted-decimal IPv4 must find the prospect of hexadecimal a bit daunting. Do they wake up at night, wondering – does this Internet juggernaut ever stop re-inventing itself and let a good old-fashioned business monopoly make some cash out of it?

No, it doesn’t. Adapt or die. And if you want to make cash, get out ahead of the herd – don’t drag your feet, sulking, behind.


Experts, ISPs and IPv6 — 1 Comment

  1. Waiting for customers to ask for IPv6 was always a misguided hope for building business support for the network and systems work required. Most senior management staff in big ISPs are unlikely to ever really understand the distinction between v4 and v6 either. So waiting for them to ask their engineers for it won’t work either. The senior management expect to simply be told it’s something that needs to happen.

    To get IPv6 bums on seats network engineers should just start enabling it by default: Where the BRAS/BNG supports it at a production ready level, as new BNGs are deployed, as BNG software IPv6 updates come out and as residential gateways start supporting it.

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