Tim Winters, UNH-IOL, on prepping providers for the IPv6 onslaught

Timothy Winters, UNH-IOL

Timothy Winters, Senior Manager, UNH-IOL

Over the past decade and a half, interoperability has been a crucial factor in continued adoption of the IPv6 addressing standard. The University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Laboratory has played a key role in advancing IPv6 through its role as a vendor-neutral testing facility.

At the center of the UNH-IOL's IPv6 work is Senior Manager Timothy Winters, who for more than nine years has led development of network interoperability testing strategies for companies looking to meet various requirements in transitioning to IPv6. He was also instrumental in the UNH-IOL's designation as an ISO-17025 accredited laboratory, a necessary step to being able to perform interop testing toward USGv6, the U.S. government's IPv6 certification program. Tim spoke with FierceTelecom about the UNH-IOL's work to get companies ready for migration to IPv6.

FierceTelecom: You specialize in developing test strategies for network interoperability in IPv6. Are there any typical testing scenarios you developed for IPv6 or are they different?

Tim Winters: For awhile we've had test cases based around what I would call being a core router or a typical host. We've had those for quite some time. Just recently we created some test specifications for IPv6 CE routers, or customer edge, and that's really the home routers that you would buy in Best Buy or deploy out at the edge, and we had to create a separate test scenario to support those devices. They're a slightly different beast from the other testing that we've done in the past.

FT: So you do consumer as well as provider network equipment testing.

TW: We do test both. For a long time we were doing a lot with the providers, operators and enterprise, and now we definitely are seeing it bleed into the consumer edge more than we have in the past.

FT: You also develop testing for SIP (session initiation protocol) and IMS (IP multimedia subsystems). Looking at it from that angle, what kind of things do providers need to be aware of with transitioning, and even the customers, what do they need to be aware of?

TW: A couple of things. First off, the transition mechanisms are going to be a key thing. If you have a legacy piece of equipment that can only do v4, you want to make sure it can still connect in some capacity, whether it's through dual-stack or using a transition mechanism. Other things in the IPv6 space (include) making sure that all of your equipment supports IPv6 and its authentications so that everything can be secure. You want to make sure that your billing system at the back end of your IMS system supports IPv6. So you don't want everything else to support it and then go put it in and have one of your components die. It's really important to make sure that everything in your network supports IPv6 so you don't have any hiccups.

FT: Have any IOL members come to you for assistance in getting ready to do IPv6 Day?

TW: It works in a more interesting way. What's happened with us is a lot of the companies who are trying to deploy websites want to know the best way to find equipment that will support IPv6. So it's more of the users that are asking us. We say, ‘What you need to be doing is you need to be asking who you're buying equipment from if they support IPv6. And here's the ways to tell.'

There are two really good programs out there for IPv6 today. There's the IPv6 Ready program, which is a much more global program; it allows a company to have a sticker that says they're IPv6-ready. Really what that means is you can put them on an IPv6 network and they won't trash the network, it'll behave properly. That makes no claim about the application but it at least gives you the idea that the base IPv6 will work. The application testing is slightly different. And the other program that does a nice job of that is the U.S. government program (USGv6), which casts a much wider net and allows buyers and suppliers. It's really just a way for companies to discuss requirements. It's a nice way for a company selling a piece of equipment to say ‘these are the functionalities we support.'

FT: Tell me in more detail about the ReadyLogo program.

TW: The IPv6 ReadyLogo program started back in the early 2000s. It's a collaboration of entities all over the world, from places in Japan, China, Taiwan, the U.S., Europe, all these different areas got together and created our own global program. Before, we each had our own test specification. What we decided was we wanted a global, united one. And the IPv6 Forum gave us a place to do that. So we do that testing in the IPv6 Ready space. It's a program that allows-Phase 2 is the one you want to focus on, that's the flagship program that's base IPv6. Recently they've added other extra functionality for things such as IPSEC, DHCP, SIP-all those functionalities help on top of v6. What's really nice about that program is companies can choose to self-cert, they can do the testing in-house and submit the application, or they can go to a lab, one of the many labs that run that testing. So there's many options in that case.

FT: You're the technical lead on the USGv6 program. Can you talk more about that and where most companies stand in getting compliant with this new standard?

TW: One of the major differences between it and the v6 Ready program is the USGv6 program requires that you test in an ISO 17025 laboratory. So you can't really test in-house unless you get your lab accredited, and even then you can't do interop in your own lab, you have to go someplace else to do it. So that program has some major differences. It also has a much wider net as it requires things-agency or buyer in this case-can require different protocols like DHCP, IP2, IPSEC, and a supplier would need to meet those requirements and check them off on their device. So all this is really just a good way for suppliers and buyers to talk (the same) language. That program tests the MUSTS and all those standards. Essentially it follows the IETF Open Standards and documents.

The other interesting component about the USG program (is) this is the first program to really make an attempt at network protection devices. So they have categories for firewalls, IPS's and IDSs around IPv6 testing. That's an important step forward obviously for securing IPv6 networks.

FT: How will the UNH-IOL be participating in World IPv6 Day?

TW: The interesting thing is that our website is already v6-enabled. We have them both up and we give out our AAAA already. So by participating we just have to do what we've always done. ... In our case, we have it up all the time. And obviously, we're helping companies and operators get ready for that day through a variety of testing. We've been testing for the last 15 years so I guess we've been helping people for a long time get ready for the day. ...We've been working with equipment vendors, getting them to turn on IPv6, getting their implementations to work, so that operators, website providers, companies can turn on their IPv6 implementations.

FT: In the months leading up to IPv6 Day, did you have any vendors/operators come in the lab to do testing particularly for the event?

TW: We held a second Plugfest in May around the home router deployment, so customer edge routers. That was really interesting, and we're making progress in that space. We ran one event in February here at the IOL that had some mixed success. We had some devices that came in, we found some issues, and the good news is we saw a lot of those issues start to get resolved.

There's still some ways to go on that stuff, but it's definitely a good step forward in deploying IPv6.  ...And a lot of that is around World IPv6 Day, because a portion of the devices that malfunction will definitely be home routers. If they don't support v6 it shouldn't affect them; what we've found is there are implementations that say they support v6 but don't. So they look like they have a real live v6 connection and they don't, and it goes into a black hole. So when you get your record for Google, you try to go to Google and it doesn't go anywhere because you're trying to go over v6. So that's really what we're trying to do, we're trying to create a test program to help vet out those types of issues in the home gateway community.

Tim Winters, UNH-IOL, on prepping providers for the IPv6 onslaught