IPv6 is at long last coming into its own across networks worldwide – and nowhere is this truer than in China.
As of December 2020, there were 462 million active Chinese IPv6 users, or about half of all Internet users in the country. On the mobile side, China’s LTE core network has been migrated to IPv6, and IPv6 traffic accounts for nearly 20% of the network’s total traffic.
Wu Hequan, director of the Expert Committee for Promoting Large-scale IPv6 Deployment and an academician of Chinese National Academy of Engineering, took time during the recent Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2021 show to talk about the progress in deploying IPv6 in China, and what improvements it will offer in the near future.
While successful, the IPv6 rollout in China has been no easy task, as engineers must customize the technology to meet varying usage and application requirements among consumers and enterprise customers.
“Enterprises have higher requirements for bandwidth with applications and AR/VR requiring Gigabit-level bandwidth. Various sensors on a production line also have different requirements for bandwidth,” Wu explained. “The same goes for the requirements for latency. Some real-time services require millisecond-level latency. However, there are a large number of applications that are not real-time and where microsecond-level synchronization is sufficient. Therefore, the requirements for latency vary greatly, such as in the case of Internet of Vehicles and mobile telemedicine. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, because every industry has their specific requirements.”
Building a network complex enough to manage all possible use cases is nearly impossible, so the goal instead is to apply intelligence and simplify the network as much as possible. The task for engineers is to determine various user requirements and then apply real-time monitoring to see how these usage patterns interplay with network topologies and affect service quality.
“All this requires smarter use of the network,” Wu added.
Meanwhile, on the horizon is IPv6 Enhanced Innovation (IPE), a new iteration of the IP standard that adds segment routing to the mix. A segment is assigned to each node or link, and these segments are combined into a list that determines packet forwarding, resulting in more efficient data transmission across the network.
Within an intelligent cloud network, IPE offers several key advantages, starting with upgrades to the connection itself.
“Segment routing enables fast channel arrangement and network deployment as well as flexible scheduling to provide enterprises with one-hop cloud access and one-hop multi-cloud access,” Wu said.
It also can lead to faster network throughputs. Wu explained that the goal is to support a 400 Gbps, non-blocking interconnection at the physical layer. From there, it will be expanded, integrating the Ethernet layer with cloud transmission on the cloud network and internal and external cloud service networks – all resulting in better efficiency.
IPE will also help create a deterministic network able to support individual applications based on their requirements in areas such as latency and jitter.
“The combination of IPv6, flexible Ethernet and network slicing technology provides a deterministic network that can guarantee the quality of service. Low latency, which is an increasingly important requirement for many networks, also sees an upgrade with IPE. But again, it’s not a matter of one size fits all,” Wu said.
“When the network is properly configured, we need to distinguish services that have strict requirements on latency and services that have fewer requirements on latency.
Resource scheduling ensures low latency for services that have strict requirements on latency. The delay is at least controllable in milliseconds.”
Also of growing importance is security, particularly when it must overlay network and cloud services. IPE helps on this front as well, Wu noted. “Applying IPE, we can quickly identify attacks wherever they come from and implement security protection against them,” he added.
And finally, IPE supports intelligent network operations and maintenance (O&M).
“On one hand, it makes O&M deployment easier and supports quick service configuration and quick response to users,” Wu said. “On the other hand, it also supports customers by automatically converting customer intention into requirements on the network topology configuration. Another aspect of intelligence is automatic locating of network faults and identification of potential faults.”
“From a bigger picture, the progress in China in deploying IPv6 – as well as the upgrades offered through IPE – proves the technology has applications beyond simply increasing the number of device IP addresses,” said Junmu Jiang, chief correspondent for C114.co and a veteran industry observer.
“In the 5G and cloud era it will also enable network innovation and intelligent transformation to create more value,” Junmu added. “With the joint efforts of upstream and downstream players in the industry value chain, including carriers, equipment vendors and content and applications providers, IPE is expected to develop better and faster in the future and make greater contributions to the digital economy’s rapid and high-quality growth.”