SWITCH Cloud Blog

IPv6 Address Assignment in OpenStack

In an inquiry “IPv6 and Liberty (or Mitaka)” on the openstack mailing list,

Ken D’Ambrosio writes:
> Hey, all. I have a Liberty cloud, and decided for the heck of it to
> start dipping my toe into IPv6. I do have some confusion, however. I
> can choose between SLAAC, DHCPv6 stateful and DHCPv6 stateless — and
> I see some writeups on what they do, but I don’t understand what
> differentiates them. As far as I can tell, they all do pretty much
> the same thing, just with different pieces doing different things.
> E.g., the chart, found here
> (http://docs.openstack.org/liberty/networking-guide/adv-config-ipv6.html
> — page down a little) shows those three options, but it isn’t clear:
> * How to configure the elements involved
> * What they exactly do (e.g., “optional info”? What’s that?)
> * Why there even *are* different choices. Do they offer functionally
> different results?

SLAAC and DHCPv6-stateless use the same mechanism (SLAAC) to provide instances with IPv6 addresses. The only difference between them is that with DHCPv6-stateless, the instance can also use DHCPv6 requests to get other (than its own address) information such as nameserver addresses etc. So between SLAAC and DHCPv6-stateless, I would always prefer DHCPv6-stateless—it’s a strict superset in terms of functionality, and I don’t see any particular risks associated with it.

DHCPv6-stateful is a different beast: It will use DHCPv6 to give an instance its IPv6 address. DHCPv6 actually fits OpenStack’s model better than SLAAC.

Why DHCPv6-Stateful Fits OpenStack Better

OpenStack (Nova) sees it as part of its job to control the IP address(es) that an instance uses. In IPv4 it uses DHCP (always did). DHCP assigns complete addresses—which are under control of OpenStack. In IPv6, stateful DHCPv6 would be the equivalent.

SLAAC is different in that the node (instance) actually chooses its address based on information it gets from the router. The most common method is that the node uses an “EUI-64” address as the local part (host ID) of the address. The EUI-64 is derived from the MAC address by a fixed algorithm. This can work with OpenStack because OpenStack controls the MAC addresses too, and can thus “guess” what IPv6 address an instance will auto-configure on a given network. You see how this is a little less straightforward than OpenStack simply telling the instance what IPv6 address it should use.

In practice, OpenStack’s guessing fails when an instance uses other methods to get the local part, for example “privacy addresses” according to RFC 4941. These will lead to conflicts with OpenStack’s built-in anti-spoofing filters. So such mechanisms need to be disabled when SLAAC is used under OpenStack (including under “DHCPv6-stateless”).

Why we Use SLAAC/DHCPv6-Stateless Anyway

Unfortunately, most GNU/Linux distributions don’t support Stateful DHCPv6 “out of the box” today.

Because we want our users to use unmodified operating systems images and still get usable IPv6, we have grudgingly decided to use DHCPv6-stateless. For configuration information, see SWITCHengines Under the Hood: Basic IPv6 Configuration.

If you decide to go for DHCPv6-stateful, then there’s a Web page that explains how to enable it client-side for a variety of GNU/Linux distributions.

It would be nice if all systems honored the “M” (Managed) flag in Router Advertisements and would use DHCPv6 if it is set, otherwise SLAAC.

[This is an edited version of my response, which I wasn’t sure I was allowed to post because I use GMANE to read the list– SL.]

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