Following up on last year’s World IPv6 Day, the Internet Society has organized World IPv6 Launch Day for June 6th. On this day, many major ISPs and corporations will permanently launch their IPv6 presence, in recognition of the fact that the world has now exhausted the IPv4 address space and must urgently migrate to IPv6. Participating companies include Google, FaceBook, Yahoo! and CDNs like Akamai and LimeLight Networks. My question is: where on the list are the cloud infrastructure providers?Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) products like Amazon’s Web Services and Rackspace’s Cloud have become extremely popular over the last few years, driven by the idea that a company, rather than purchasing its own servers and installing them in data centers, can simply rent machine time by the hour from an infrastructure vendor. The IaaS vendors, in turn, have exploited server virtualization technology like Xen and Microsoft’s Hyper-V to multiplex many virtual servers on each physical server, thereby keeping capital costs low.
The fundamental business driver is capital cost avoidance, an especially attractive characteristic for startups. New Internet companies want to get off the ground quickly and often do not have a large budget to spend up front on equipment, an enormous risk when their products are untested in the market. Now, all they need to do is raise enough cash to pay the monthly bill and they can now concentrate on making their websites a success. If they do become wildly successful and need more capacity, their operations staff can add more servers at the click of a mouse.
Unlike physical servers that a corporation might install in its own data center, each one of these cloud servers consumes a public IP address, and therein lies a huge scaling problem. Industry observers have estimated that Amazon has the capacity to run up to one million EC2 instances, which equates to approximately one million IP addresses required. (Subtract a few for Virtual Private Cloud machines, and add a few Elastic Load Balancer addresses.) The IPv4 address space was exhausted in February of last year, so it’s hard to see how Amazon or other cloud providers can sustain their torrential growth unless they already own large blocks of IP addresses.
This is what makes it so surprising that none of the IaaS vendors are at the table for World IPv6 Launch Day. One would think it would be in their best interests to quickly IPv6-enable their deployment regions, or at least create a new one that is natively IPv6, for customers who are ready and willing to deploy IPv6. After all, not every server in a company’s infrastructure needs to have a public IP address, and as long as Amazon, say, continues to provide IPv4 Elastic IPs for clients, a mixed IPv4 and IPv6 environment could be a great first step. IaaS vendors could also provide pricing incentives for clients to use IPv6-only instances, by billing them at cheaper rates in recognition of the fact that IPv4 addresses are a rare commodity.
It’s possible that an announcement could still be coming from either Amazon or Rackspace, so stay tuned.