Google ramps up IPv6 mission, google.com a year away

The technology is available, but uptake is still low.

Google has begun preaching the wonders of IPv6 in the hope more awareness will help expedite the transition from the legacy IPv4 networks most people use today.

During a presentation at this year’s linux.conf.au in Hobart, senior Google software engineer Angus Lees recalled how Google's IPv6 efforts started as a covert, hobbyist project about two years ago and has gained enough momentum that a AAAA record for google.com could be added to Google's DNS in a year.

"There were three of us going to lunch bemoaning how IPv6 will never have a business case," Lees said, adding the way Google allows its employees to work on side-projects prevented the team from answering "why" from senior management.

"We have initially rolled out a duplicate network and we didn't touch the v4 network so there was no risk. We had ipv6.google.com and the world didn't end. Within Google, users drive everything and if you have users that's all you need."

While the IPv6 project was hatched in a clandestine manner, Lees said eventually making more noise about it helped gain support and credibility.

"We have a good IPv6 deployment internally and there are some glitches I am working hard to fix," Lees said. "[We] want to put a AAAA record on google.com in something like a year from now so we would like it to be a success."

Lees' biggest challenge is how to make any IPv6-supported services completely transparent to end-users. The content will be the same, but running over IPv6 instead of IPv4.

"IPv6 is at a point where the technology is done, but it's a chicken-and-egg scenario to get people using it," he said. "We are trying to use Google's name to say 'IPv6 is real and ready and coming'.

Google has had an IPv6-only search site at ipv6.google.com for the best part of a year, but only just announced its IPv6 whitelist at google.com/ipv6.

"We have a whitelist in our DNS servers and my home was the first place in the world to get it," Lees said. "This enables IPv6 access to Google for selected networks and works by DNS resolution. If the user's DNS resolver is in a whitelist it will receive AAAA answers."

Lees has turned IPv6 on for its internal network and the maps service will be IPv6-enabled within the next three months. Video is harder because of the content distribution network.

Locally, Lees said AARNet has expressed interest in joining the whitelist so people on AARNet should be able to access the Google’s IPv6 site.

Some of the "symptoms" of the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 are connection times and indiscriminate transit of packets on the network.

Lees puts these problems down to IPv6 implementations and not the protocol.

"A simple [IPv6] traceroute crossed the Atlantic several times and a traceroute from the one city to somewhere else in the same city and went via Amsterdam," he said. "It has to do with peering. And we want people with production quality IPv6 networks to join and be prepared to fix problems.

Last year Google also conducted its own survey to evaluate the penetration of IPv6-enabled Web browsers.

Of Google's sample, the IPv6 leaders are Russia (0.76%), France (0.65%), Ukraine (0.64%), Norway (0.49%), and the US.

The leading operating systems with IPv6-enabled browsers are Mac OS X with 2.44%, Linux (0.93%) and Windows Vista (0.32%).

As for the death of IPv4, Lees was pragmatic: "We will never turn off IPv4 so long as people are still using it".

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Rodney Gedda

Techworld Australia
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