Jean McManus, Executive Director of Packet Technology & Transport, Verizon Corporate Technology
To say Jean McManus is enthusiastic about the transition to IPv6 would be an understatement. As executive director of Packet Technology and Transport in Verizon's Corporate Technology Organization, McManus is leading the IPv6 initiative across Verizon's business units focused on migration to IPv6. A veteran of GTE Government Systems, she also leads a technical team with responsibility for IP, Ethernet, and optical network architecture for Verizon's wireline networks.
With World IPv6 Day just a couple of days away, McManus is in the midst of preparing Verizon staff to troubleshoot v6 issues during the one-day event, as well as collect as much data as possible. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk with FierceTelecom about World IPv6 Day, Verizon's participation, and the importance of making the transition to the new addressing protocol.
FierceTelecom: What are Verizon's plans for World IPv6 day? How are you participating in the event?
JM: What we are doing is particularly focused on the public IP side of it. We've been working with some of our customers in terms of educating them on v6 transition and trying to support them and their needs if they chose to participate in World Day. We've been talking to some of our customers who we peer with, and for those who want to upgrade their connections on a permanent basis--in other words, aren't just doing it for World IPv6 Day, but if they're ready to make that transition--we've been working with some of them.
Additionally, education in general--not just to customers but also internally within Verizon, in terms of our NOCs and our tech support centers and things like that.
FT: How are you preparing for any issues that might arise on June 8?
JM: We will have network capability in terms of the Verizon Business network, and from the Verizon Wireless perspective the 4G LTE network. So those customers of those networks can fully participate on World IPv6 Day in terms of accessing the websites, the content that the content providers are putting out there. But we're also taking this as an opportunity to educate within our company.
"We've been making sure that the networks are ready that have v6 capability but also internally trying to make sure that we can take the calls that we may get."
What a lot of the folks may not see that, it has been a big undertaking within Verizon, in terms of--across all our business units--making sure that if customers call in, whether it's a FiOS customer, or a Verizon Business public IP customer or an LTE customer, that our tech support can speak to them about v6 in terms of answering a question. If for some reason they have a question on what World IPv6 Day is or in general, can (they) use v6, (or) if they are having trouble in terms of accessing sites, we want to make sure we're ready to troubleshoot with them. ... It's been twofold: We've been making sure that the networks are ready that have v6 capability but also internally trying to make sure that we can take the calls that we may get.
FT: So internally, you're prepping associates for v6 in terms of customer service. Can you give me a little more detail on how you're training Verizon employees?
JM: What we're doing is giving them presentations on what v6 is, how it works, how it works on the networks that they're supporting. If they are supporting a network that isn't supporting v6, they could still get a call from a customer asking ‘Why can't I use v6?' We're trying to give them enough of the technical information that they can respond to those types of questions from the customer.
Additionally, we're also encouraging them to think about, that day they may have to troubleshoot more than they have in the past because people may be trying to get to a lot of different sites, and just because a customer can't get to a site, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the network part; it could be a data center problem; it could be a server problem. So we're also working with them so that they understand how to sectionalize--which is a very common thing that operations folks do all the time anyway--but just reminding them that we're working with v6 and these are areas where you want to make sure you're asking these types of questions, you're running these types of tests and so forth.
They've been very responsive, I think they're all very interested in v6 because they're hearing a lot about it, they know it's coming. I do think we're already getting calls on v6. We've seen on some of the social media stuff, people with questions. We are trying to address things as they come in. But specifically for the operations team, it's educating: What is this? How does it impact us? What type of calls might you get? And then also providing them resources. If they're really running into an issue, who can they reach out to in the company? Who within Verizon has subject matter expertise in that type of stuff? So we're doing all sorts of stuff like that.
FT: What kind of testing will you be doing during the event?
JM: We're really focused on trying to use the day to gather data, just like every other provider and content website operator is. What I mean by that is, hopefully the v6 traffic volumes will be driven up that day, so we'll start to see how things perform under load with v6.
We'll start to see as more websites are turned on, are we gonna have any sort of problem in terms of connectivity? And just the fact that we are running v6 today, both on Verizon Business and Verizon Wireless is a good sign, and so we're not anticipating any huge problem, but those are the types of things we would be watching just to make sure that we can address anything we need to. And obviously we would assume that the website owners and so forth are doing the same in terms of making sure their infrastructure is ready.
FT: How many of your customers are participating in World IPv6 Day?
"...it's not just about the broadband access provider or the network provider (being) v6 capable, but you also have to make sure your own internal infrastructure ... (is) enabled."
JM: Anyone that is on LTE or has purchased the IPv6 offering with Verizon Business can participate. I don't have the specific customer counts...but it's not restricted, (you don't) have to register or anything. It's basically, if you buy that service you can use v6.
Plus, people can just be accessing--anything that's dual stack or IPv6 enabled websites, they also could be accessing that. They may not even be customers of ours to access our websites also.
FT: What kind of things will World IPv6 Day reveal about the current state of the Internet and the current state of v6?
JM: I think we're going to see more from the engineering side, just looking at impact of scale and traffic volume and that stuff. ... This is based just on our own experience within Verizon, but I assume that other providers are seeing this too: As we ramp up to get there, people that are saying 'I'm going to enable my website' all of a sudden probably are realizing, 'Wait a minute, if I enable my website I also need to enable the data center network.' There are different parts of the ecosystem that become more apparent in terms of, it's not just about the broadband access provider or the network provider (being) v6 capable, but you also have to make sure your own internal infrastructure, like within your data center and that type of stuff are enabled. So I think, quite honestly, a lot of the learning may already be happening. And that's great.
I can tell you we're getting, through our Verizon Business Professional Services, a lot of interest from companies on how to v6 enable their infrastructure. So again, the dialogue has started, and it's very positive. In the past, when people talked about v6 it was always, ‘OK, when is this network provider going to have v6?' but that's only a subset of the end to end path, and you need to make sure that the servers, the applications, and the data center part are also enabled.
I think that the way that World IPv6 Day is set up--ISOC has done a great job of trying to bring in all parts of the ecosystem--it really has led to a much greater awareness that there is this end-to-end aspect that needs to be looked at. And I do think that, again, that learning has taken place in the ramp-up to World IPv6 Day, and then will continue beyond that. Also during World IPv6 Day itself we'll see if there are any interoperability concerns or issues that arise, along with some of the other statistics that I mentioned in terms of traffic volume and the basic stuff you always look at with equipment: Does the software you're running perform correctly, are there any issues under load, those types of things.
FT: For businesses at the enterprise and even at the SMB level that are looking to transition to v6, what benefits can they expect from migrating?
"One of the areas that I strongly think that people will start to realize the benefits of v6 is service innovation."
JM: I think it will ensure their long-term scalability and growth, in the sense that they're not going to have this issue of 'Oh, can I get v4 addresses?' That they're not going to necessarily in the long term--there's going to be a transition period where everyone is going dual-stack with v4/v6--but ultimately if we can get everyone on v6, then we kind of get rid of that v4 problem of 'do I need to do some sort of carrier-grade NAT?' those types of things.
Sometimes (this) gets lost in a lot of the dialogue that goes on with v6: One of the areas that I strongly think that people will start to realize the benefits of v6 is service innovation. All of a sudden being able to address just about anything, and not have to worry about exhausting addresses, opens up huge potential in terms of service offerings, and also getting rid of NATs that might be out there, whether they be carrier-grade NAT or even in the residential space, the CPE NATs. That's huge because all of a sudden it just will--through application developers--they will have an opportunity to think about things in a different way. They'll have more visibility into end points. Obviously you have to balance that with security, and that's something that a lot of folks are looking at right now--but it seems like it's going to open up a lot of potential in terms of future service innovation. We're excited about it. We really feel that if we can get the momentum going--there will be this transitional period where we're running dual stack--but ultimately if we can keep the momentum going to get more and more on v6, the better off we are. It needs to happen, and I think that World IPv6 Day is a great way to get awareness going, get everybody moving, and keep up the momentum once World IPv6 Day ends.
"I think what happened is, 4G LTE, we felt that it's a new network going in. So why would you not future-proof it?"
FT: Verizon is in the midst of getting its LTE network up and running. How do you see v6 and LTE working together?
JM: I think what happened is, 4G LTE, we felt that it's a new network going in. So why would you not future-proof it? So in order to ensure that it will scale and to take advantage of future things coming, IPv6 was critical. From day one, the engineers and architects said ‘Hey, v6 has got to be there.' So it was a great scenario, going in with a clean slate. We weren't going to rely on older approaches, older technology, we were going to look forward and say we know v6 is coming; let's get it out there day one. And that actually saves--a lot of providers right now are working toward the transition issues if they have large scale v4 networks. How do you move a customer base to v6 and then additionally, what are all the upgrades that have to happen? If you're going in with a brand new network, there's no reason you shouldn't be going in with v6.
And just a note on the 4G LTE, it's dual-stack lite, so they aren't, they understand that they are in a migration period in terms of the Internet, it's not just like all of a sudden you can magically flip a switch and only run v6, because you have a lot of end points that can only handle v4. But the key is, they have that v6 capability there. So that's going to give LTE customers the edge there in terms of, as v6 content comes out, they're going to access it natively with v6.
FT: Verizon is using dual stack technology across its network. I know it's long-term out but are you developing a strategy around migrating completely to v6 architecture?
JM: Right now we're very focused on dual stack because we know that's what we have to get to, and then what will drive us from dual stack to just IPv6 only will be dependent on how fast things move. So I don't think we're saying at this point, ‘we're only going to put out this network' or whatever, and focus on v6 only.' It has been dual stack because we see that transition issue.
Then again, it comes to--and that's why I think what ISOC did by pulling in all the different segments--it's kind of making it more apparent that the dependencies that are there, and trying to make sure that all segments are trying to move forward and not just one segment of the ecosystem, and that is important.