But first, recall that the enhancements with IPv6 can be generalized in two categories. First are those that support the routing (or packet forwarding) process, including larger address formats (which impact routing table size and structure); improvements to the routing protocols, such as the Routing Information Protocol (RIP) and the Open Shortest First Protocol (OSPF), to support these larger addresses; and support for the optional extension headers, including the Routing Header, which can streamline the packet forwarding process.
The second category of enhancements deal with the those that support the host (or computing) infrastructure, including the Stateless Autoconfiguration process (plug and play), enhancements to the Domain Name System (DNS), brought on by the larger addresses; updates to the Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, and upgraded Security, just to name a few.
With these two broad categories in mind, lets explore how far the networking industry has gone to embrace the IPv6 technology, and see how some of the key networking vendors include support for IPv6 in their products.
Apple Computers OS X operating system has an open source, UNIX-based architecture, which incorporates the advanced BSD networking functions, including advanced sockets and TCP/IP stack. Support for both IPv6 and IPsec is provided in the OS X 10.2 and later releases (see Apple Developer Connection: Networking and Mac OS X Technology Overview PDF - 2.7 MB).
Cisco has been instrumental in the development and support for IPv6, introducing IPv6 in IOS version 12. This support is spread across their product line, and is so extensive that there are voluminous tables in the Cisco documentation that detail which IPv6 features are supported in each platform and release of IOS 12. The IPv6 features include: Neighbor Discovery, Stateless Autoconfiguration, MTU Path Discovery, Automatic and Configured tunneling, updated routing protocols, including RIPng, BGP extensions for IPv6, IS-IS support for IPv6 and OSPFv3, traffic shaping, many options for transmitting IPv6 packets over LANs, MANs and WANs, and others (see Cisco Systems IPv6).
Hewlett-Packards support of IPv6 can be traced to the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) assets that they acquired when they merged with Compaq Computer Corporation a few years ago. DEC was on the forefront of the IPv6 development, and those efforts are now evident in the HP-UX11i release that supports IPv6, and runs over Ethernet, FDDI and Infiniband links. The supported IPv6 features include Path Maximum Transmission Unit (PMTU) Discovery, Stateless Autoconfiguration, Automatic and Configured tunnels, IPv4/IPv6 dual stack protocols, basic and advanced sockets application programming interfaces (APIs) and others (see HP-UX 11i Internet Protocol version 6).
Hitachis GR2000 carrier-class gigabit routers support IPv6, at forwarding rates of up to 26 Mpps (millions of packets per second) and line rates up to OC-48 (2.4 Gbps). The systems are based upon custom Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), which support a dual stack IPv4/IPv6 architecture, with Stateless Autoconfiguration, packet filtering, Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities with DiffServ (Differentiated Services), IPv6 routing and support for Static, RIPng, OSPFv3 and BGP4+ protocols, IPv6 over IPv4 and IPv4 over IPv6 tunneling, and others (see Hitachi GR2000 Hardware-Based IPv6 Routers - PDF 877 KB).
IBM has supported IPv6 since 1997, with the release of an IPv6-enabled AIX system. Since that time, IBM has continued to add IPv6 capabilities to its products, including DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows v9.1; IBM HTTP Server v6.0.2; Lotus Notes v7.0; Netcool/Precision for IP Networks; Tivoli Access Manager for Operating Systems v6.0; WebSphere Application Server v6.0.2; and others (see IPv6 at IBM).
The Universal Playground for IPv6 (USAGI) Project is a collaborative effort run by volunteers to deliver both IPv6 and IPsec (IP security, for both IPv4 and IPv6) protocols for the Linux system. This project was undertaken to correct other Linux implementations that were found to have bugs and not be in conformance with the IPv6 specifications. This release supports Linux kernel tree 2.6, and includes improvements to the kernel, libraries and applications (see USAGI Linux IPv6 Development Project).
Support for IPv6 is built into many of the Windows operating system versions, including Windows Server 2003, Windows XP (Service Packs 1 or 2), Windows CE .NET, Windows Vista, and Windows Server Code Name Longhorn. Much of Microsofts efforts cater to the application development community, with Windows Sockets and .NET framework programming tools, plus strategies for an orderly transition from IPv4 to IPv6 (see Microsoft TechNet IPv6).
Nortel Networks has substantial experience in IPv6, dating to their acquisition of Bay Networks router products in the late 1990s. Nortels latest generation Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 provides terabit performance and wire speed support for IPv6. Release 4.1 supports Neighbor Discovery, Stateless Autoconfiguration, OSPFv3, DNS extensions to support IPv6, IPv6 Multicast, IPv4 to IPv6 Tunneling, and other features (see Nortel Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 - PDF 468 KB).
IP on NetWare, available with NetWare 6.5, enables NetWare applications such as NDS and Winsock to use IPv6 as a native transport protocol over the NetWare server platform. The IPv6 element functions as an add-on component to the existing TCP/IP protocol stack (using a dual IPv4/IPv6 protocol stack architecture), with IPv6 over Ethernet at the Data Link Layer. IPv6 functions that are supported include Neighbor Discovery, Stateless Address Autoconfiguration, the Basic Socket Interface Extensions, the Transmission Mechanisms for hosts and routers, Automatic and Configured tunneling, and others (see Novell NetWare 6.5 - PDF 621 KB).
Suns Solaris 10 operating system includes support for key IPv6 specifications and programming interfaces, with the added benefit of an integrated IP Security (IPsec) implementation, with Internet Key Exchange (IKE), which enables systems to connect using encryption and authentication. Other Solaris elements support the IPv6 infrastructure, including the Sun Java Enterprise System, mail server, web server, Network File Server (NFS), Domain Name System server and application server. The system also supports dual stack tunneling, including IPv4 over IPv6 and IPv6 over IPv4 (see Solaris 10 Operating System).
The above list should get you started, but be sure to check with your specific vendors to understand their level of support for IPv6 in greater detail. Our next tutorial will examine IPv6 network implementation, and examine strategies that you should consider as you upgrade your network to support the new protocol.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2007 DigiNet Corporation®, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Implementing IPv6, and the Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.
This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.