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Infrastructure Systems: Cloud, Hybrid, and IPv6

Published by Mike Solinap
on July 3, 2014

I recently returned from TechEd North America 2014, which was in Houston, TX this year. There were hundreds of vendors and around 10,000 attendees. One of the hottest topics this year was the topic of Cloud – what does it mean for the enterprise and how does it affect your company’s current infrastructure systems?

With big players in the game such as Cisco, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, what are some key points one should look at before deciding on which cloud solution to implement for a company’s ecosystem? For the CTOs or CIOs, this can be a very heavy decision, especially since there have been significant infrastructure changes in the past few months such as the exhaustion of IPv4.

What is IPv6 and why do you care? IPv6 is the next generation of Internet networking protocol and is much larger than IPv4, which uses 32 bits or 232 (4,294,967,296); IPv6 on the other hand uses 128 bits or 2128 or 340 undecillion. That’s 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) possible addresses with IPv6. IPv6 is on by default and is preferred in Windows, which means you have likely already deployed IPv6 but just didn’t know it!

One of my favorite sessions I attended at TechEd was presented by Ed Horely, author of IPv6 for Windows Administrators and Co-Chair for the California IPv6 Task Force, entitled “How IPv6 Impacts Private Cloud Deployments,” which can be watched here. As Ed points out, North America ran OUT of IPv4 as of April 23, 2014. A thought that must be considered by any enterprise considering cloud implementation is, “Can this cloud solution support IPv6?” Tom Coffeen, Chief IPv6 Evangelist for Infobox says, “Cloud services and mobile devices cannot scale without either IPv6 addresses or an evolved best-practice to manage them effectively.”

Now, as just a high level overview of the various cloud services available for infrastructure systems, let’s look at which cloud service supports IPv6:

  • Microsoft Private Cloud supports IPv6, but it is not enabled by default. You must plan and configure everything explicitly for IPv6 for it work.
  • Amazon (Virtual Private Cloud) VPCs, according to their website, currently cannot be addressed from IPv6 address ranges.
  • Google’s Cloud Platform, Google Compute Engine networks, use the IPv4 protocol and currently GCE does not support IPv6, however “Google is a major advocate of IPv6 and it is an important future direction,” as their website notes.
  • Cisco’s Cloud connected products and offerings do appear to support IPv6. According to their documentation, there is support for IPv6 and hybrid IPv6 and IPv4 networks. There is also a session on Cisco’s Technology Trifecta for Cloud OS presented by Rex Backman, Senior Marketing Manager for Cisco, from this year’s TechEd North America available to watch for free here.
  • VMware vCloud Network and Security Edge does not currently support IPv6. According to their website documentation, “Virtual machines managed by vCloud Director using IPv6 can communicate only to endpoints that are not behind vCloud Network and Security Edge Devices. Virtual Machines that communicate on the same directly attached vApp or organization virtual datacenter network can use IPv6. To communicate with the outside world using IPv6, connect the organization’s virtual machines to a direct external organization virtual datacenter network. vCloud Director does not support IPv6 addressing for the cell network interface.”

In conclusion, there is still a growing adoption of IPv6 for cloud providers and enterprise as we can see from the limited support for IPv6 offered by some of the key players in the cloud infrastructure systems game. Considering the future of the internet itself, it would be recommended to consider the impact of IPv6 on the cloud as you consider your cloud infrastructure needs.

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