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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

IPv6 over MPLS Security

When service providers consider their IPv6 deployment plans, they look at what services their customers want and what the customers are willing to pay for. They then consider how difficult it would be to provide these services with the infrastructure they already have. Because service providers might not be charging extra for IPv6 connectivity, the budget for the deployment is extremely low. Therefore, the simplest methods of deploying IPv6 are often preferred.

RFC 4029, "Scenarios and Analysis for Introducing IPv6 into ISP Networks," describes the steps of IPv6 deployment that most service providers take into consideration. Service providers start by creating a dual-stack backbone and connecting to an IPv6 exchange. Service providers initially create connections using tunnels. As their migration progresses, customers can be connected with native dual-stack connections. This involves the use of an IPv6-capable IGP such as IS-IS or OSPFv3. Eventually their entire infrastructure is fully dual-stack capable. However, this takes considerable time and can require investment in new equipment that is dual-stack capable.

Some service providers use IPv6 tunnels over their existing IPv4 infrastructure to provide IPv6 services to their customers. They find that despite the scalability issues of maintaining multiple manually configured tunnels, it is easy to configure. The downsides are that troubleshooting is more difficult because IPv6 connectivity is based on the underlying IPv4 network stability. Tunnels can also route traffic in awkward ways that can be suboptimal and increase latency. The other concern is that ultimately these tunnels will have to be taken down as the network becomes fully dual-stack capable.

Many service providers have already deployed IPv4 Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Virtual Private Networks (VPN) (RFC 4364). Figure 3-4 shows a service provider's MPLS network that supports customers that use different IP versions. Customers use customer edge (CE) routers at their sites to communicate with the service provider's provider edge (PE) router. PE routers use Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRF) instances to separate customers into their own VPNs. Inside the service provider's core provider (P), routers create label switched paths (LSP) to connect customer sites but prevent customers' networks from communicating with other customers. As customer packets traverse the MPLS, core network labels are used at each hop to help forward the packets. MPLS networks can be leveraged for providing IPv6 services to customers. There are several models of adding IPv6 to an existing IPv4 MPLS network, including the following:

  • Use static IPv6 over IPv4 tunnels between PE routers
  • Use 6PE (simpler PE routers that are IPv6-aware) to use the IPv4 MPLS core to send IPv6 packets between PE routers
  • Use 6VPE (MPLS VPN dual-protocol PE routers) to create separate IPv6-aware VRFs
Figure 3-4

Figure 3-4 Dual-Protocol MPLS VPN

Service providers can offer several types of IPv6 services. Every flavor has its advantages and disadvantages for the service provider and the customer. You should know which one you are purchasing from the service provider. This can help you determine the risks that exist and know how to mitigate them. The following sections provide an overview of each model. In-depth coverage of how to configure each of these types of networks is outside the scope of this book. However, Deploying IPv6 Networks, by Ciprian P. Popoviciu, Eric Levy-Abegnoli, and Patrick Grossetete (Cisco Press, 2006), covers the configuration details of setting up these different types of MPLS environments for IPv6.

Using Static IPv6 over IPv4 Tunnels Between PE Routers

The first technique mentioned uses statically configured tunnels between PE routers. The tunnel interfaces have a tunnel destination of the remote PE router's IPv4 address. The IBGP between PE routers and the LSPs created over the IPv4 P routers allow the tunnel endpoints to communicate. The security issues related to static tunnels apply to this solution. You should make sure that you are protecting the tunnel endpoints and filtering traffic entering and leaving the tunnel at both ends. The goal is to prevent spoofed packets from entering the tunnel or escaping the tunnel.

Using 6PE

The second technique involves enabling IPv6 on the PE routers and using the IBGP advertisements of the IPv6 routes to form LSPs that can carry the IPv6 packets. A two-label stack is typically used. The inner label is the BGP label for the IPv6 route. The outer label is based on the P routers forwarding the traffic based on their IPv4 IGP routing protocols. This technique is called 6PE.

The advantage of using 6PE is that the core can remain IPv4-only for the near term, and the LSPs are constructed between dual-stack PE routers. The signaling of the LSPs still uses IPv4. Although 6PE does not support IPv6 multicast, it is one of the easiest ways to leverage an existing IPv4 MPLS core infrastructure. This can give the service provider time to upgrade its MPLS core to IPv6 while still providing basic dual-protocol services to customers.

Similar to the tunneling methods, 6PE will eventually need to be migrated away from IPv4 as the core gets migrated to IPv6. Because 6PE is not the final solution, it is considered by some to be just an incremental step toward a fully IPv6-aware core network. The work to migrate to IPv6 is tough enough without having to go through many intermediary steps that can become migrations in and of themselves. As they say, "If you don't have time to do it right, you certainly don't have time to do it over." For this reason, some aggressive service providers might bypass the 6PE step and strive for an IPv6-aware core directly.

Another disadvantage of the 6PE technique is that 6PE is like having one large single routing table. There is no differentiation of customer traffic across the core. Customers are not separated from each other as with Layer 3 MPLS-based VPNs. 6PE is more like having a big MPLS Internet service with global IPv6 routes. This technique can be used for commodity IPv6 Internet connectivity for customers. If you are using an MPLS service for Internet connectivity, you need to protect your perimeter accordingly. If you are using a 6PE service for site-to-site connectivity, you should be filtering traffic going between sites and filtering the routes being advertised and received from the service provider. You might also want to consider using encryption between your sites as an extra measure of security.

The security implication of using 6PE services is that there is no inherent security built into the service. Customers should be aware of the type of service they are selecting from the provider and protect their traffic accordingly. Just because the service provider says that the IPv6 is being provided over an MPLS network, do not assume that a Layer 3 MPLS-based VPN service is being used.

Using 6VPE to Create IPv6-Aware VRFs

The third solution is an IPv6 MPLS VPN service. 6VPE is more like the MPLS-based VPNs that are currently popular for IPv4 connectivity. Using a Layer 3 MPLS VPN service for IPv6 networks gives the security benefits of separating customer traffic into different VRFs. 6VPE networks use a two-label stack, with the internal label being the VPN label identifier and the outer label being assigned as a result of the IGP. The P routers only look at the label and swap labels. They do not care whether it is an IPv4 or IPv6 packet inside. At the same time, 6VPE should fit the operational models that many service providers have already adopted. However, there currently are limited solutions for creating native IPv6 LSPs using Label Distribution Protocol (LDP) or Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP). While LDPv6 has been defined, it is not widely implemented. The Cisco 6VPE solution is an implementation of RFC 4659. 6VPE can work on top of a core infrastructure that uses either or both IP versions. That can mean infrastructure upgrades and the deployment of an IGP that is capable of both IPv4 and IPv6 routing.

6VPE provides the same level of security as IPv4 BGP-based Layer 3 MPLS VPNs, which is discussed in RFC 4381, "Analysis of the Security of BGP/MPLS IP Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)." As long as the 6VPE PE routers are configured properly, the system can provide the same security as traditional ATM or Frame Relay links. Because the service provider isolates its core network from customers, malicious customer traffic cannot impact the control plane of the service provider's out-of-band management network. Therefore, 6VPE can be safer than many other forms of WAN services.

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