IPv6 Enhanced unleashes connectivity potential as SRv6 gains traction

IPv6 Enhanced unleashes connectivity potential as SRv6 gains traction

At the recent MPLS, SD & AI Net World Congress 2022 Congress (also called the MPLS Forum) held in Paris, France, Ping Wu, CTO of Huawei Datacom Product Line European Branch delivered a keynote speech titled "IPv6 Enhanced, Unleashing Connectivity Potential.”

In his talk Wu discussed the pivotal role played by IP networks in digital development, highlighting that the evolution from IPv4 to IPv6 for addressing space expansion is only the first step. It is also vital to introduce IPv6 Enhanced for improved deterministic quality, programmability, and maintainability of connections, thereby meeting the requirements of various industry scenarios, unlocking the full value of connectivity, and promoting the steady development of the digital economy.

Digitisation is sweeping across the world. In most countries and regions, the growth rate of the digital economy is more than twice that of overall GDP. In recent years, many countries and regions have released their national strategies for digital economy development - for instance, the Digital China strategy put in place by China aims to accelerate the construction of a digital society, improve the level of digital public services, and build a robust digital ecosystem. Such strategies require an IP network that connects to all things at one end and a myriad of applications at the other.

The rapid development of the digital economy places new requirements on traditional IP networks. For example, there will likely be tens of billions of IoT devices by 2030, making mass connectivity a fundamental capability required of IP networks. And with the advent of the cloud era, more and more enterprises will adopt multi-cloud connectivity for critical service backup and various applications, placing higher demands on network flexibility and real-time performance. In the future, not only will office services be moved to the cloud, but so too will production services. This will require much higher deterministic network quality. For example, in scenarios such as industrial control and telemedicine, the E2E network latency and jitter must be kept within microseconds.

To address these challenges, Wu said the first step is to use IPv6 technologies to meet the requirements for huge volumes of IP addresses. However, further optimizing connectivity will involve innovative IPv6 Enhanced technologies for better deterministic quality, programmability, and maintainability. Only in doing so can we fundamentally meet the requirements of the digital economy and unlock the value of connectivity in the digital transformation of various industries.

For example, the IPv6 Enhanced-based intelligent cloud-network solution helps operators build differentiated cloud access private lines based on their own network advantages, providing users with fast and smooth cloud access. On the access side, the one-box multi-connection solution helps users quickly access clouds, while for aggregation, the pan-private line scheduling solution enables unified access and smooth evolution. On the backbone side, the SRv6-based intelligent cloud-map algorithm enables optimal scheduling of cloud-network resources.

In the smart manufacturing industry, IPv6 provides ample addresses for the access of many sensors, while network slicing provides dedicated network-level assurance for different services. After IP-based reconstruction of production networks, massive production data can be transferred to the cloud in a timely manner, and the computing power and intelligence of the cloud can be efficiently transferred to the production sites to guide production lines more accurately and efficiently.

From human-to-human connectivity to connectivity of everything, IPv6 Enhanced has been put into commercial use at more than 100 sites around the world, effectively supporting the digital development of various industries such as finance, manufacturing, energy, education, and healthcare. Now is the time to embrace IPv6 and IPv6 Enhanced technologies to unleash connectivity potential and accelerate the advent of the digital world.

The theme of the congress this year was "SRv6 Momentum", and many senior experts and analysts from the SRv6 industry — covering device suppliers, operators, third-party independent test organizations, and standards organizations — delivered keynote speeches on SRv6 technical standards, industry cooperation, and commercial use progress, among others. In addition, they shared insights into the status quo, commercial deployment progress, and future development trends of SRv6.

SRv6, short for Segment Routing (SR) + IPv6, is a next-generation IP transport protocol. Utilizing existing IPv6 forwarding technology, SRv6 implements network programming through flexible IPv6 extension headers. SRv6 simplifies network protocol types, features good extensibility and programmability, meets diversified requirements of more new services, provides high reliability, and is especially suited to scenarios such as cross-domain interconnection, large-scale networking, service cloudification, and cloud-network synergy.

On the first day of the Congress, Zhenbin Li, Huawei Chief IP Standard Representative and IETF IAB member, delivered a keynote speech titled "APN6 Enables Application and Network Collaboration". He said that the innovation of IPv6 Enhanced technologies oriented towards emerging services such as 5G and cloud is increasingly becoming a consensus in the industry. Innovative IPv6 Enhanced technologies, such as SRv6 and IP network slicing, have been deployed and applied on more than 100 sites worldwide, significantly enhancing the differentiated service capabilities of networks. He also introduced emerging technologies such as application-aware networking (APN) and computing-aware networking (CAN) — developed along with the trend of in-depth convergence between clouds and networks and between computing power and networks — as well as the development of the standards industry.

Li underlined that the development of standards is critical to the development of IPv6 and IPv6 innovations. In a presentation titled "Progress of IPv6 Enhanced Standard and Industry", Li briefly introduced the IPv6 Enhanced technology system and its development status, emphasizing that IPv6 innovations are a growing trend in the global network field. The development of IPv6 Enhanced standards can be divided into three phases: 1.0 focusing on basic SRv6 capabilities, 2.0 focusing on 5G/cloud-oriented new network services, and 3.0 focusing on the APN architecture.

At the SRv6 session, Xipeng Xiao, head of CTO Office for Huawei West Europe, delivered a keynote speech titled "Migration to SRv6: Momentum, Challenges & Progress". He mentioned how IPv6 has made great progress in recent years and laid a solid foundation for SRv6. In addition, SRv6 standards have become mature, while SRv6 has been widely deployed across the globe. Now is the best time for leading operators and enterprises to adopt IPv6-only networks. SRv6 is a natural choice in the IPv6-only world, helping to promote IPv6-only deployment.

Carsten Rossenhovel, managing director and co-founder, EANTC AG, noted that vendor support for SRv6 is growing even if more advanced technologies are not yet being implemented. He did however add that this could easily adapt if the demand from service providers became clear, and that from a functional perspective, SRv6 is “ready for prime time.”

Sameer Ashfaq Malik, senior principal analyst at Omdia, described IPv6 as a concept that provides ultra-connectivity for next generation networks, enhancing artificial intelligence and enabling protocols such as segment routing. For 5G and NBIoT, a robust transport network is required for success – which means most operators around the world are now eager to deploy such networks. The number of IP-capable devices is set to increase sharply, but with IPv4 supporting only 4.3 billion IP addresses, new solutions are required – especially with the trillion-dollar B2B vertical industry market now requiring full connectivity. IPv6 Enhanced provides differentiated service capabilities to implement high-speed, efficient, flexible, and intelligent next-generation Internet, meeting industry interconnection requirements in the digital era.

In an address titled "IPv6 Enhanced Powers Digitization and Innovation", Latif Ladid, Chairman of the ETSI IPE Alliance, noted that IPv6 is developing rapidlywith countries prioritizing policies to promote the development of IPv6 globally. The ETSI IPE Alliance is actively promoting IPv6 development and innovation, with more than 80 members at present. This alliance defined IPv6 Enhanced in 2020. In 2021, it fully explored the value of IPv6 Enhanced in various scenarios, such as 5G, cloud, and data center, and systematically proposed IPv6 Enhanced innovations from six dimensions: ultra-high bandwidth, ubiquitous connectivity, automation, low latency, deterministic quality, and security. SRv6, as the core of IPv6 Enhanced, propels IPv6 innovations to new heights and can fully unleash the potential of connectivity.

Weiqiang Chen, Principal Architect of IP Network from China Mobile, shared insights into the requirements, fundamentals, and progress of SRv6 header compression technology. In his speech, he introduced SRv6 compression requirements, SRv6 compression standardization progress at the IETF, and G-SRv6 industry progress, including interoperability tests, live network trials, and large-scale deployment. He explained that G-SRv6 solves the problem of high overhead of SRv6 headers while retaining the extensibility and programmability of SRv6, making it a key feature to accelerate large-scale SRv6 deployment.

With joint efforts of upstream and downstream industry chains, it is widely agreed that SRv6, a successor of MPLS, will be the next-generation core protocol of IP networks and will be deployed on a large scare. In the future, SRv6-based service innovation will fully unlock the value of connections and promote the digital development of industries.

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