CGN vs IPv6

There are two rather big misconceptions I often see mentioned when it comes to the IPv6 over Carrier Grade NAT debate.

Firstly that CGN and IPv6 are mutually exclusive.  Some folks seem to think that it’s an either/or approach when it comes to deploying these technologies, rather than having them work alongside each other in parallel.

IPv4 isn’t going away anytime soon, CGN should be treated as a transitioning mechanism, not as a method to procrastinate the deployment of IPv6.  CGN is capex intensive, requiring special hardware to NAT and keep track of the translation state table. This CGN hardware is typically going to be limited by number of flows and bandwidth throughput, i.e, how many customers and how much they’re using.  Providing an IPv6 prefix delegation dual stacked alongside a private CGN IP allows for native IPv6 traffic to bypass these resource (and financially) intensive CGN gateways, meaning more capacity out of them, better IP saving efficiency and most importantly, better user experience.

ISPs don’t want to deploy CGN, it costs us, our customers don’t like it, not to mention the compliance issues involved; however, until the IPv4 internet gets turned off, we’re going to need some form of CGN, NAT64, 464XLAT, 4RD etc.

The second misconception is that IPv6 is a silver bullet, solving all of our NAT issues and providing ubiquitous end-to-end connectivity.

I can’t imagine that many ISPs are going to be deploying IPv6 to their end-users with the CPE firewall disabled by default, so there goes that theory.  If you’re lucky your ISP will provide you a CPE that has a nice web UI with an IPv6 firewall that allows you to open up ports to your public IPv6 addresses on your LAN. If you’re really lucky your CPE will allow IPSec to your end hosts by default, as per RFC6092.  But what about users that don’t want to or care how to do manual firewall rules, let alone know that they should use the EUI-64 address instead of the privacy extension addresses?  What happens if the dynamic PD changes, do they have to login and update the CPE firewall rules each time?

To make sure IPv6 doesn’t negatively impact the user experience we need some sort of dynamic firewall and port forwarding similar to what UPnP used to provide us in IPv4.  Well, there is a UPnP function to allow this, but it’s a (relatively) new one specified in IGD:2 that requires both CPE and application support.  I don’t know the stats on how widely this is supported by residential CPEs, but my personal experience has indicated “not very”, and even if it is, it requires every application that currently does an IPv4 AddPortMapping() request to do a new IPv6 AddPinhole().

Thankfully, as of the 30th March 2015, the UPnP Forum has deprecated IGD:1 so hopefully we will see a bit more up take amongst the commodity CPEs vendors for this.

As a side note, this IGD:2 spec also includes an AddAnyPortMapping() function that allows a CPE to return a different port to the one requested, in case the original one is in use or otherwise unavailable.  This would be great for CGN deployments that incorporate PCP to allow for dynamic port forwarding, but once again requires application developers to support the new function, as well as a UPnP-PCP Interworking function on the CPE.

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