When connecting machines over the public Internet (or over private networks), we use IPv4 addresses. For many years we’ve heard about IPv4 address exhaustion or the fact that sometime in the future we will not able to request new IPv4 addresses to connect over the public Internet. We all heard that IPv6 address space will resolve this problem, but will it?
In this blog post, I will compare common use cases for using cloud services and see if they are ready for IPv6.
Before we begin, when working with IPv6, we need to clarify what ‘dual-stack‘ means — A device with dual-stack implementation in the operating system has an IPv4 and IPv6 address and can communicate with other nodes in the LAN or the Internet using either IPv4 or IPv6.
Step 1. Cloud network infrastructure
The first step in building our cloud environment begins with network services.
The goal is to be able to create a network environment with subnets, an access control list, be able to create peering between cloud accounts (for the same cloud provider) and get ingress access to our cloud environment (either from the public Internet or from our on-premise data centre).
|Amazon VPC||Azure VNet||Google VPC|
|Ability to create network access controls||Yes (security groups and networks ACLs)||Yes (network security groups)||Yes (VPC firewall rules)|
Step 2. Private network connectivity — managed VPN services
Now that we have a network environment in the cloud, how do we connect to it from our on-premise data centre using site-to-site VPN? Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS site-to-site VPN||Azure VPN Gateway||Google Cloud VPN|
|Dual-stack||No||No||Yes (using HA VPN only)|
Step 3. Private network connectivity — dedicated network connections
Assuming we managed to create a VPN tunnel between our on-premise data centre and the cloud environment, what happens if we wish to set up a dedicated network connection (and have low latency and promised bandwidth)? Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS Direct Connect||Azure Express Route||Google Cloud Interconnect|
|Private IPv6 peering support||Yes||Yes||No|
|Public IPv6 peering support||Yes||Yes||No|
Step 4. Private Network Connectivity — resources on the subnet level
We have managed to provision the network environment in the cloud using IPv6.
What happens if we wish to connect to managed services using private network connectivity (inside the cloud provider’s backbone and not over the public Internet)? Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS PrivateLink||Azure Private Link|
|Customer endpoint support for IPv6||Yes||Unknown|
|Service provider endpoint support for IPv6||Yes (using dual-stack only)||Unknown|
Step 5. Name resolution — managed DNS service
In the previous step we configured network infrastructure. Before provisioning resources, let’s make sure we can access resources, that is, having a managed DNS service.
By name resolution, I mean both external customers over the public Internet and name resolution from our on-premise data centres. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon Route 53||Azure DNS||Google Cloud DNS|
|Support both forward (AAAA) and reverse (PTR) IPv6 records||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Recursive DNS resolvers on IPv6 networks||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Public IPv6 DNS resolution||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Private DNS resolution||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Health checks of IPv6 endpoints||Yes||Unknown||Unknown|
Step 6. Resource provisioning — compute (VM)
In the previous steps we have set up the network infrastructure and name resolution, and now it is time to provision resources.
The most common resource we can find in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is compute or Virtual Machines (VMs). Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon EC2||Azure Virtual Machines||Google Compute Engine|
|IPv6 only support||Yes||No||No|
Step 7. Resource provisioning — compute (managed Kubernetes)
Another common use case is to provision containers based on a managed Kubernetes service. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)||Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)||Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)|
|Dual-stack support||Yes||Yes (Preview in 02/2023)||Yes|
|IPv6-only support||Yes (AWS Nitro-based Amazon EC2 or Fargate nodes)||No||Yes|
|Assign IPv6 address to nodes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Assign IPv6 address to pods||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Assign IPv6 address to services||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Step 8. Resource provisioning — compute (serverless / Function as a Service)
If we have already managed to provision VMs and containers, what about provisioning serverless or Function-as-a-Service (FaaS)? Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS Lamba||Azure Functions||Google Cloud Functions|
Step 9. Resource provisioning — managed load balancers
If we are planning to expose services either to the public Internet or allow connectivity from our on-premise, we will need to use a managed load-balancer service. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon Elastic Load Balancing||Azure Load Balancer||Google Cloud Load Balancing|
|IPv6-only support||Yes (using AWS Transit Gateway)||No||No|
|External load balancer IPv6 support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Internal load balancer IPv6 support||Yes (using Internet Gateway)||Yes||Yes (using dual-stack only)|
|Layer 4 load balance support for IPv6||Yes (using AWS NLB)||Yes||No|
|Layer 7 load balance support for IPv6||Yes (using AWS ALB)||No||Yes|
|IPv6 target group / backend pool / target pool support||Yes (using dual-stack only)||Yes||Yes|
Step 10. Resource provisioning — managed object storage
The next step after provisioning compute services is to allow us to store data in an object storage service. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon S3||Azure Blob Storage||Google Cloud Storage|
|IPv6 public endpoint support||Yes||No||No|
|IPv6 private endpoint support||No||No||No|
Step 11. Resource provisioning — managed database services
Most of the applications we provision require a backend database to store and retrieve data. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|Amazon RDS||Azure SQL||Google Cloud SQL|
|Ability to configure database firewall rules||Yes (using dual-stack only)||Yes (using dual-stack only)||No|
Step 12. Protecting network access — managed firewall services
If we are planning to expose services to the public Internet using IPv6 or allow access from on-premise, we need to consider a managed network firewall service. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS Network Firewall||Azure Firewall Manager||Google Cloud Firewall|
Step 13. Protecting network access — managed DDoS protection services
On the topic of exposing services to the public Internet, we need to take into consideration protection against DDoS attacks. Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS Shield||Azure DDS Protection||Google Cloud Armor|
Step 14. Protecting network access — managed Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)
We know that protection against network-based attacks is possible using IPv6 but what about protection against application-level attacks? Let’s compare the cloud providers’ alternatives:
|AWS WAF||Azure Front Door||Google Cloud Armor|
In this blog post we have compared various cloud services, intending to answer the question — is the public cloud ready for IPv6?
As we have seen, many cloud services do support IPv6 today (mostly in dual-stack mode), and AWS does seem to be more mature than its competitors, however, at the time of writing this post, the public cloud is not ready to handle IPv6-only services.
The day we will be able to develop cloud-native applications while allowing end-to-end IPv6-only addresses, in all layers (from the network, compute, database, storage, event-driven / message queuing, and so on), is the day we know the public cloud is ready to support IPv6.
For the time being, dual-stack (IPv4 and IPv6) is partially supported by many services in the cloud, but we cannot rely on end-to-end connectivity.
For some additional references, read AWS services that support IPv6 and An Introduction to IPv6 on Google Cloud.
This post is adapted from the original at Medium.
Eyal Estrin is a cloud and information security architect, the owner of the blog Security & Cloud 24/7, and the author of the book Cloud Security Handbook, with more than 20 years in the IT industry. Eyal is an AWS Community Builder since 2020. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.