Experience IPv6 Today
Many people hear about IPv6 and think it is "future technology" – interesting, even fascinating and important, but not something they could actually get their hands on any time soon – maybe next year or at best in a few months. The reality is you can experience it today, on your existing computer (assuming you have an IPv4 Internet connection already). This is done with the miracle of "tunneling."
In networking, a tunnel is a transition mechanism, of use primarily while we are transitioning from an IPv4-only world to a Dual Stack (IPv4 and IPv6) world. There are many kinds of tunnels, but the one we are talking about here is "IPv6 tunneled through IPv4." The basic idea is that a "tunnel provider" will take packets from an upstream IPv6 service provider, and embed those packets (IPv6 headers and all) as the data part of good old IPv4 packets, then send them along to you over IPv4 (and vice versa). Your computer needs some special software (a "tunnel client") that can unpack those IPv6 packets and either use them directly, or even route them onto your local network. That client can also take IPv6 packets from your node, pack them into the data part of IPv4 packets, and send them to the tunnel provider, which routes them to the outside world.
You can enable a single IPv6 address (called a "/128 block"), a group of 2 to the 64th power addresses (a "/64 block") good for an entire subnet or even 65,536 of those (a "/48 block"), with a /64 block routed to each of multiple subnets. If I just lost you, don't worry. We're just going to enable your node for now.
Once the tunnel is set up, your node (or possibly even other nodes on your network, with your node acting as a router) can access the growing IPv6 Internet. Not next year, not next month, not even next week. Today. This is the best way to get started with understanding and actually using IPv6. Be the first kid on your block, and all that.
There are several tunnel providers, most of whom are willing to supply you with trial service (no Service Level Agreements, and not even a guarantee they won't drop service in the middle of a test or demo), for free. Some require a "static external routable IPv4 address," which few of us have today (IPv4 addresses are scarce, remember? That's why we need to migrate to IPv6!). One tunnel provider will work even with a DHCP assigned address, even bind NAT. Can't ask for much more than that. That tunnel provider is Canada's Hexago, located at www.hexago.com. You will need to register for their service, but it is really quite simple. And you can be watching the dancing Kame within a few minutes.
The dancing what? Well, Kame is Japanese for Tortoise, and an early project to create a reference implementation for the BSD open source operating systems was called Kame, and was done under the WIDE project (a consortium sponsored by some of the leading IT companies in Japan, headed by one of the founding fathers of the IPv6 field, Dr. Jun Murai). Why Kame? Well, there was also a project to do the same for Linux, named Usagi, which is Japanese for Hare (as in Rabbit), and of course, Kame finished long before Usagi (which is still working hard to complete their stack), just as in the children's story. Love those inscrutable and clever Japanese. Well, if you connect to the Kame website (www.kame.net) over IPv4, you can read all about IPv6, but the Kame logo (a cute little tortoise) just sits there. Boring. If you connect over IPv6, the logo animates, and you can watch the Kame dance.
This has become legend in the IPv6 field, and is proof that you've figured out enough about IPv6 to actually make a real connection over it. Of course, once you've set up your tunnel, that is the first site you should view, to verify operation, as millions of other people already have. There are other sites you can view (including the IPv6 version of our website at www.infoweapons.net), but the Kame site is de rigueur. Don't miss it.
Let's assume you are running Windows XP (Service Pack 2) on your PC. You already have TCP/IP installed, and a working connection to the Internet. Go to www.kame.net now to see it with an IPv4 connection. Boring. I told you it would be. The fun comes once you have IPv6 connectivity working, which we will now do.
First, install the Microsoft IPv6 stack (assuming it isn't already installed). This is easier than you might think.
Congratulations – you now have a dual-stack client computer, capable of making and receiving both IPv4 and IPv6 connections. If your company had already provided you with a dual stack network, you'd be done now, and could now view the dancing Kame.
If you are like most of the world, there is one more step you must go through to bring tunneled IPv6 service to your shiny new dual stack client node. Go to www.hexago.com and follow directions for Windows XP SP2. You will be downloading and installing their free TSP client. Don't worry, no spyware, no Trojan Horses. You can always remove it later if you like. Of course your IPv6 connectivity will go away too, until you migrate your network to dual stack.
Once the TSP client is installed and working, your node now has (in addition to the IPv4 connectivity it used to have), the ability to make connections to any node on the Next Generation Internet. Welcome to the future – we're glad you've made it!
The first site you should view is www.kame.net. If the Kame doesn't dance, you need to check that everything is installed and working. It usually works first try. It's possible your network admin has blocked something to prevent it from working. You did get approval to do this before starting, didn't you? OK, do so now. Your network and/or security admins should know that you are doing this. Try this from home if they freak.
Assuming you are now one of the elect, and have seen the dancing Kame with your own eyes, on your own computer, there are two other nodes you may wish to check out:
We are currently putting together an IPv6 showcase site, where you will be able to experience audio and video streaming, multicast, mobile IPv6 and other marvels of the Next Generation Internet.
Note: if you are running some platform other than Windows XP SP2, there are versions of the Hexago TSP client for many of them. Instructions on enabling IPv6 on supported platforms are available on Hexago's website.
In the next issue of 6Sense, I'll discuss the next step, which is the first serious one in migrating your whole network to Dual Stack: deploying a dual stack DNS server. I'll be doing a talk and demo on this at the US Federal IPv6 Summit in Reston Virginia, May 17-19, 2006 (along with several other topics, such as IPv6 Security Architectures). If this is important to you, and it should be to most readers of this newsletter, come join the fun. See you there.