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University of Reading deploys IPv6 on Malaysian campus

The University of Reading has recently built a campus in Malaysia, allowing a new network design deploying IPv6 from the outset

The University of Reading has used the development of a new campus in Malaysia as an opportunity to deploy IPv6.

The university rolled out the networking protocol when building its facilities for the Educity educational hub in Malaysia, which also hosts universities such as Southampton and Newcastle.

Andy Gatward, head of IT operations for the University of Reading, explained at the Jisc Networkshop44 event in Manchester that the development of the campus was a perfect opportunity to implement the new standard without legacy standing in the way.

“We took the opportunity to design this network for IPv6 first and laid IPv4 over the top,” Gatward explained.

IPv6 is the most recent version of internet protocol, which governs the locations for computers across a network and the internet so that data traffic can be properly routed.  

“Initially we were looking to take connectivity through a Jisc joint effort with Telekoms Malaysia,” Gatward said. “Unfortunately, local authorities can make things quite difficult and we couldn’t actually get the fibre in the ground to do this.”

Instead, the university uses a private peering network to run a site-to-site VPN between the Malaysian and London campuses using Telekom Malaysia and the Janet network, providing 190ms round-trip time (RTT) for packets.

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The university uses an IPv6 framework to support the facilities on its Malaysian campus, which is equipped with 4,500 access ports, four lecture theatres, teaching and research labs, and a “moot court” where law students can practise their skills.

The Reading Malaysia campus’s fabric-based network spans two datacentres and runs on two Juniper core data routers for high-speed data access using a single interior gateway protocol (IGP).

The campus’s servers have static IPv6 addresses using service prefixes to allow easy tracking of what’s happening across the network.

Greenfield advantage

The main advantage of the campus being “shiny and new” was that the university did not have to deal with legacy infrastructure when designing the network.

Gatward said other benefits of implementing the system in this manner included “lower overheads”, a “consistent topology” due to lack of connected legacy structures, “improved convergence” and “simpler configuration”.

But Gatward admitted that training staff could be “interesting” and that the risks of layering IPv4 on top of IPv6 included bugs potentially affecting both server stacks. He added that Educity had to ensure IPv6 protocol was enabled on all interfaces and run alongside IPv4 protocols when running diagnostics.

He also warned that some IPv4 legacy may never integrate properly with the new protocol.

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