Black Friday, Hosting Providers and IPv6
This month we explain what Black Friday has to do with the non-profit Dataplane.org. Then we turn our attention to IPv6. We recently conducted an informal poll to gauge people’s percentage of IPv6 availability at hosting providers. The bad news, the poll takers were way off and have a relatively pessimistic view of the IPv6 landscape. The good news, IPv6 addressing and transport is widely available from hosting providers of all sizes. The so-so news is that unlike IPv4, there is quite a bit of variation in how IPv6 addressing is provisioned from one provider to the next. We wrap up our technical dives this month with a quick look at the SSH client software we see in the wild before concluding with our latest organizational updates and a request for your support.
Preparing for Black Friday
In a couple of weeks, the holiday shopping season kicks off with a frenzy. Many server hosting providers take this opportunity to lure customers with deeply discounted hosting plans. Many of our own systems have been purchased by taking advantage of these plans every year. This year, many potential customers are lowering their expectations of finding good deals due to the global economic environment. We are similarly anticipating a limited shopping season to expand our pool of vantage points and server systems, but we do hope to be able to take advantage of anything that helps further our mission. We’re keeping an eye out for server systems we can use for various back-end needs (e.g. storage, database, RPKI monitors, DNS, SMTP, and WWW infrastructure). We would also like to take advantage of any low-cost, low-end systems from reputable providers that can help expand our vantage point network. We can often find suitable server systems for $20 - $50 / month, while vantage points can often be had for $10 - 20 / year during sales events.
IPv6: Widespread, but Inconsistent
A lot has been made over the reach and use of IPv6 over the past decade. Google and Akamai both show IPv6 growing as a proportion of all IP traffic volume and in the number of endpoints worldwide. Major telecommunication networks and broadband providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast and many others have deployed IPv6 to end customers. Many believe this deployment will help expedite even more transition to IPv6.
Dataplane.org operates well over 300 geographic, and topologically, diverse systems on the Internet. Most of these systems are internally classified as a “sensor”, vantage points that observe unsolicited Internet activity forming the basis for much of our signal data and analysis. As we have noted previously in our Feb 2022 newsletter, we see very little unsolicited activity over IPv6 on our sensors. Consequently, IPv6 transport availability has not been a high priority for these sensor-based systems. However, we are beginning to explore the use of vantage points as active measurement “probes” and here is where IPv6 becomes more desirable.
Probe-based systems would initiate traffic for the purposes of “active” Internet measurements. This would include low-impact availability, performance, and consistency monitoring of remote Internet systems and network paths. The exact design of our probe-based systems is still being architected, but we know we want to conduct measurements using both IPv4 and IPv6 transport. Therefore, we have been reviewing all of our current providers and vantage points that have or could have IPv6 connectivity. In doing so, we would like to share the current state of IPv6 based on the large pool of hosting providers we utilize.
We maintain a public listing of our hosting providers, approximately 100 of them at the time of this publication, which span the spectrum from the largest cloud networks to very small so-called “low-end” server operators who may only have a few hundred public IPv4 addresses registered in their name. More than 85% of our hosting providers support IPv6, and those that do not you’ve probably never heard of them. And at least a couple of these providers that do not currently support IPv6 have expressed some interest in deploying it in the future.
The providers that do not seem to be planning IPv6 transport generally fall into two camps:
One small group could be classified as providers in a few “exotic” locations that are still “developing” in terms of their Internet hosting service and capability. We would expect IPv6 service will eventually come, but their deployment lags behind much of the world.
The other group we chalk up to apathy and low customer demand. Although we have asked some of them for it, we’re resigned to accept they won’t be easily moved.
We will continue to do business with the majority of our hosting providers that do not support IPv6 for the time being, because they otherwise provide a sufficiently unique geographic or topologically-diverse IPv4-only service meeting our other vantage point needs.
The IPv6-capable providers vary in multiple ways. One difference is the size of the IPv6 address allocation to an individual server system:
Some providers give you only a single IPv6 address.
Some give you a handful, including a provider that assigned us exactly three IPv6 addresses.
A few providers allocate a /112.
Many give you a /64.
A handful even give you an entire /48.
The other difference is whether or not IPv6 is provided by default. The majority of IPv6-capable providers provision IPv6 automatically, but many do not and you have to ask for it. Anecdotally we have seen increasing availability and support parity between IPv4 and IPv6 from hosting providers.
Not all is as promising as reasonably good availability of IPv6 hostwever. There are relatively few consistent IPv6 addressing practices shared across all hosting providers and this could lead to some management challenges. For example, some providers reserve one of your /64 addresses for the local gateway, while others will provide a gateway in a covering /48 of your /64. There is one common practice we’ve observed. The IPv6 address of the default gateway is almost always a public address that ends in ::1.
Overall, we consider IPv6 availability and practices to be reasonably good. It sure seems better than what many may have suspected. It also seems to been getting better compared to just a few years ago.
Unsolicited SSH Client Software Popularity
What kind of newsletter would this be if we didn’t include some data visualization? This word cloud depicts the relative popularity of top 30 SSH client software strings as seen by our sensors:
Current operational state of Dataplane.org
Through conversations with our attorney, who was able to set up our legal entity as well as guide us through obtaining our charitable status, we have realized that some of the complexities that we face are beyond their expertise. We will be interviewing other attorneys who will be able to guide us further as well as handle guidance around cyber matters that we will inevitably face.
With the calendar year coming to a close, don’t forget to lower your taxable income by making a charitable donation to a valid 501(c)(3) organization. While we won’t be doing a telethon anytime soon, we have set up a PayPal donation link for those of you who choose to support us financially.
We welcome feedback on any items covered in our update or suggestions for improvement.
Feel free to reach out via email, Twitter, or Slack (request an invite if you need one).
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