The depletion of the IPv4 address space has been news for quite some time now but we are not seeing the migration to IPv6 that was wanted and expected. There are many reasons for this; technology exists to mitigate the increased difficulty of obtaining IPv4 addresses, security concerns, the incompleteness of the IPv6 stack and the elephant in the room, there is no ROI in migrating to IPv6.
The migration to IPv6 will cost a company a lot of time, effort and create a whole new risk position. Many networking devices like firewalls are not IPv6 aware and the number of software platforms that haven’t even started to address IPv6 is legion. Sure Microsoft enables it by default in Windows 7 (opening up these platforms to hackers) but the infrastructure is not equipped to handle IPv6 from either the basic passing of these packets or the management of such. OpenFlow enabled devices can mitigate many of these reasons for the lack of adoption.
IPv6 can be passed either natively or encapsulated within another protocol like IPv4. Most implementations will firstly use the latter method and just keep IPv6 at the edges where the IPv6 clients are. This is done for a variety of reasons, mainly because every device in the path must be IPv6 aware if it is to pass native IPv6 traffic (obviously) and the cost of upgrading and/or testing every device that must pass, inspect or act on a packet is massive for even medium size companies. If companies roll out OpenFlow devices they only need to test and authenticate the control pane and that could be just one software device.
The ability to innovate on a standardised platform is one of OpenFlow’s main advantages. This will enable agile and lean development on the networking stack. This will enable all sorts of great things to be done in the data path instead of having to rely on a choke point like many applications have to today. The distributed platform has worked wonders in the big data world, why not the networking world? Firewalls and IPS/IDS functionality will be built in along the path instead of either forcing all traffic to be passed through one point or slapped alongside the path. Changes and enhancements to the standards only needs to be rolled out once, instead of to each device.
OpenFlow will enable IPv6 to be more reliably and cheaply rolled out, it may even enable new services that leverage IPv6’s strengths and mitigate IPv6’s current weaknesses.