OpenBSD Journal

Book Review: IPv6 Essentials

Contributed by jose on from the 128-bit-address dept.

Recently I received a review copy of Sylvia Hagen's IPv6 Essentials , a new book from O'Reilly. I finally got around to getting a review written. From the review's conclusion:
Hagen's book is definitely the best IPv6 book I have found so far, but it still comes up short for my needs.
Continuing in our recent trend of doing book reviews (feel free to submit some, by the way), read on for my thoughts on this book.

Title: IPv6 Essentials
Author: Silvia Hagen
Publisher: O'Reilly and Associates
356 Pages, July, 2002
Rating: 7/10 (Fair)
Reviewer: Jose Nazario

When I first saw that O'Reilly was releasing a book on IPv6, I was rather excited and thrilled. I have generally been pleased with O'Reilly books, finding that they usually get authors who are at the head of the field and also write very well. With few exceptions, O'Reilly has come through for me.

I have been using IPv6 for some time now, starting when I was exploring some OpenBSD subsystems I hadn't seen much of. However, I had to read a lot of RFC documents and a lot of archives (Itojun, thank you!) to get the information I needed. As such, the thought of an IPv6 book was really exciting for me, maybe I could start to do more with IPv6.

Strengths of IPv6 Essentials

I'll start with the strengths of the book. The first things I really liked about the book is its depth of coverage of what it hits. For example, the chapters on routing protocols under IPv6 and ICMP6 control messages really shine. Hagen really knows her stuff, and it shows.

Along those same lines, the book really clarifies a lot of IPv6's intricacies very well. IPv6 has so many extensions and options available, sometimes it is tough to see them clearly. Hagen does a great job, and with the usual O'Reilly illustrations present it usually all makes sense.

For myself, the strongest chapters were on things like the IPsec standard and IPv6 multicast. Nowhere have I been able to find similar quality.

Weaknesses of the book

Overall, I found myself a bit disappointed in the book. Most of it may come from the wrong expectations. In a nutshell, I was hoping for a book focused more on practical use than on background material.

The book really focuses on IPv6 at the infrastructure level. Hagen is clearly a networking person, and while the book does a great job of discussing things like RIPng and OSPF for IPv6, it really lacks a lot of detail for things on the ground. The chapter "Getting Your Hands Dirty", which is supposed to cover IPv6 use in Solaris, Linux, Microsoft, IOS, and various applications, does nothing more than tell you that its available and to check your vendor documentation. This is hardly the "quick start guide" I was expecting. (For what it's worth, I was expecting to see stuff like, "Using ifconfig to set up the router's IPv6 address, you turn on router advertisements. On the clients, start router solicitation and everything should stateless autoconfigure.")

In this vein again, the book really lacks any serious description of services for IPv6. The biggest among then is DNS for IPv6, which has a steep learning curve. Furthermore, the discussion of transitioning between IPv4 and IPv6 is rather slim. Hagen focuses on using IPv4 hosts on IPv6 networks with dual stacks and doesn't discuss any of the ways to get IPv6 only hosts onto IPv4 networks (a tricky subject).

The discussion on IPv6 security was limited. Like most IPv6 security documents, it focuses only on IPsec. Only one paragraph is devoted to saying, "due to IPv6's complexity, security is a difficult task to master, and due to its relative novelty, few network security tools support it." Then again, I don't think I have ever seen a decent description of security tools for IPv6.

This last point is maybe a small nit, but I think it's a common complaint. Hagen is a Windows person, and so many of the figures showing examples are screen shots. This wouldn't be so bad except sometimes the clarity gets in the way. Instead, just past the text output when possible. Furthermore, more multiple platform examples would have been welcome.


Hagen's book is definitely the best IPv6 book I have found so far, but it still comes up short for my needs. Similarly, I think it may be lacking for many end users who hope to transition to IPv6 networks, as well. Instead, the book is stellar for network administrators who wish to learn IPv6. Hagen's book excels at condensing a lot of RFC material into readable materials. However, for those who wish to use IPv6 and lack access to their upstream routers, this book will leave you wishing for more information.

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