Internet-Draft Update on ULAs in RFC 6724 January 2024
Buraglio, et al. Expires 5 July 2024 [Page]
6724 (if approved)
Intended Status:
Standards Track
N. Buraglio
Energy Sciences Network
T. Chown
J. Duncan
Tachyon Dynamics

Preference for IPv6 ULAs over IPv4 addresses in RFC6724


When [RFC6724] was published it defined an address selection algorithm along with a default policy table, and noted a number of examples where that policy table might benefit from adjustment for specific scenarios. It also noted that it is important for implementations to provide a way to change the default policies as more experience is gained. This update draws on several years of operational experience to refine RFC 6724 further, with particular emphasis on preference for the use of ULA addresses over IPv4 addresses and the addition of mandatory support for Rule 5.5. The update also demotes the preference for 6to4 addresses. The changes to default behavior improve supportability of common use cases, including automatic / unmanaged scenarios. It is recognized that some less common deployment scenarios may require explicit configuration or custom changes to achieve desired operational parameters.

Status of This Memo

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This Internet-Draft will expire on 5 July 2024.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Since its publication in 2012, [RFC6724] has become an important mechanism by which nodes can perform address selection, deriving the most appropriate source and destination address pair to use from a candidate set by following the procedures defined in the RFC. Part of the process involves the use of a policy table, where the precedence and labels for address prefixes are listed, and for which a default table is defined.

It was always expected that the default policy table may need to be changed based on operational experience; section 2.1 says "It is important that implementations provide a way to change the default policies as more experience is gained" and points to the examples in Section 10, which include Section 10.6 where a ULA example is presented.

This document is written on the basis of such operational experience, in particular for scenarios where ULAs are used for their intended purpose as stated in [RFC4193], i.e., they designed to be routed inside of a local site and by default not received from or advertised externally. It also includes updated requirements on support for RFC 6724 Rule 5.5. The goal of the document is to improve behavior for common scenarios, and to assist in the phasing out of use of IPv4, while noting that some specific scenarios may still require explicit configuration.

An IPv6 deployment, whether enterprise, residential or other, may use combinations of IPv6 GUAs, IPv6 ULAs, IPv4 globals, IPv4 RFC 1918 addressing, and may or may not use some form of NAT. However, this document makes no comment or recommendation on how ULAs are used, or on the use of NAT in an IPv6 network.

2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. Operational Issues Regarding Preference for IPv4 addresses over ULAs

With multiaddressing being the norm for IPv6, moreso where nodes are dual-stack, the ability for a node to pick an appropriate address pair for communication is very important.

Where getaddrinfo() or a comparable API is used, the sorting behavior should take into account both the source addresses of the requesting node as well as the destination addresses returned, and sort the candidate address pairs following the procedures defined in RFC 6724.

The current default policy table leads to preference for IPv6 GUAs over IPv4 globals, which is widely considered preferential behavior to support greater use of IPv6 in dual-stack environments. This helps allow sites to phase out IPv4 as its evidenced use becomes ever lower.

However, the same default policy table also puts IPv6 ULAs below all IPv4 addresses, including [RFC1918] addresses. For many site operators this behavior will be counter-intuitive, and may create difficulties with respect to planning, operational, and security implications for environments where ULA addressing is used in IPv4/IPv6 dual-stack network scenarios. The expected default prioritization of IPv6 traffic over IPv4 by default, as happens with IPv6 GUA addressing, does not happen for ULAs.

As a result, the use of ULAs is not a viable option for dual-stack networking transition planning, large scale network modeling, network lab environments or other modes of large scale networking that run both IPv4 and IPv6 concurrently with the expectation that IPv6 will be preferred by default.

This document updates the default policy table to elevate the preference for ULAs such that ULAs will be preferred over all IPv4 addresses, providing more consistent and less confusing behavior for operators, and to assist operators in phasing out IPv4 from dual-stack environments, since by this update IPv6 GUAs and ULAs will be preferred over any IPv4 addresses. This is an important enabler for sites seeking to move from dual-stack to IPv6-only networking.

This change aims to improve the default handling of address selection for common cases, and unmanaged / automatic scenarios rather than those where DHCPv6 is deployed. Sites using DHCPv6 for host configuration management can make use of implementations of [RFC7078] to apply changes to the [RFC6724] policy table.

The changes are discussed in more detail in the following sections, with a further section providing a summary of the proposed updates.

4. Preference of 6to4 addresses

The anycast prefix for 6to4 relays was deprecated by [RFC7526] in 2015, and since that time the use of 6to4 addressing has further declined to the point where it is generally not seen and can be considered to all intents and purposes deprecated in use.

This document therefore demotes the precedence of the 6to4 prefix in the policy table to the same minimum preference as carried by the deprecated site local and 6bone address prefixes.

5. Adjustments to RFC 6724

This update makes two specific changes to RFC 6724: first to update the default policy table, and second to change Rule 5.5 on prefering addresses in a prefix advertised by the next-hop to a MUST.

5.1. Policy Table Update

This update alters the default policy table listed in Rule 2.1 of RFC 6724.

The table below reflects the current RFC 6724 state on the left, and the updated state defined by this RFC on the right:

                    RFC 6724                                Updated
      Prefix        Precedence Label          Prefix        Precedence Label
      ::1/128               50     0          ::1/128               50     0
      ::/0                  40     1          ::/0                  40     1
      ::ffff:0:0/96         35     4          ::ffff:0:0/96         20     4 (*)
      2002::/16             30     2          2002::/16              5     2 (*)
      2001::/32              5     5          2001::/32              5     5
      fc00::/7               3    13          fc00::/7              30    13 (*)
      ::/96                  1     3          ::/96                  1     3
      fec0::/10              1    11          fec0::/10              1     11
      3ffe::/16              1    12          3ffe::/16              1     12

 (*) value(s) changed in update

The update moves 2002::/16 to de-preference its status in line with [RFC7526] and moves the precedence of fc00::/7 above legacy IPv4, with ::ffff:0:0/96 now set to precedence 20.

5.2. Rule 5.5

The heuristic for address selection defined in Rule 5.5 of Section 5 of RFC 6724 to prefer addresses in a prefix advertised by a next-hop router has proven to be very useful.

The text in RFC 6724 states that the Rules MUST be followed in order, but also includes a discussion note under Rule 5.5 that says that an IPv6 implementation is not required to remember which next-hops advertised which prefixes and thus that Rule 5.5 is only applicable to implementations that track this information.

This document elevates the requirement to prefer addresses in a prefix advertised by a next-hop router to a MUST for all nodes.

5.3. Automatic insertion of prefixes in the policy table

Section 2.1 of RFC 6724 states that "an implementation MAY automatically add additional site-specific rows to the default table based on its configured addresses, such as for Unique Local Addresses (ULAs)".

Given this document now elevates ULAs above all IPv4 addresses for address selection, should an implementation choose to insert specific ULA prefixes into the policy table, e.g., based on observed Router Advertisements (RAs) [RFC4861] and their Prefix Information Options (PIOs) or Route Information Options (RIOs) [RFC4191], it SHOULD give such "known local" prefixes a precedence of 45, and SHOULD also reduce the precedence of other ULA addresses, i.e., the general fc07::/7 prefix, to precedence 10, such that IPv4 would be preferred to ULA prefixes that have not been explicitly added.

6. Configuration of the default policy table

As stated in Section 2.1 of RFC 6724 "IPv6 implementations SHOULD support configurable address selection via a mechanism at least as powerful as the policy tables defined here".

While this document defines changes to RFC 6724 behavior based on operational experience to date, it is important that node policy tables can be changed once deployed to support future emerging use cases. This update thus re-states the importance of such configurability.

7. Intended behaviors

In this section we reiew the intended default behaviors after this update is applied.

7.1. GUA-GUA preferred over IPv4-IPv4

This is the current behaviour, and remains unaltered. The rationale is to promote use of IPv6 GUAs in dual-stack environments.

7.2. GUA-GUA preferred over ULA-ULA

This is the current behaviour, and remains unaltered. Both cases have matching labels, with GUAs having higher precedence.

7.3. ULA-ULA preferred over IPv4-IPv4

This is a change introduced by this update. RFC 6724 as originally defined would lead to IPv4 being preferred over ULAs, which is contrary to the spirit of the GUA preference over IPv4, and to the goal of removing evidenced use of IPv4 in a dual-stack site before transitioning to IPv6-only.

7.4. IPv4-IPv4 preferred over ULA-GUA

An IPv6 ULA address will only be preferred over an IPv4 address if both IPv6 ULA source and destination addresses are available. With Rule 5 of Section 6 of RFC 6724 and the ULA-specific label added in [RFC6724] (which was not present in [RFC3484]) an IPv4 source and destination will be preferred over an IPv6 ULA source and an IPv6 GUA destination address, even though generally IPv6 ULA addresses are preferred over IPv4 in the policy table as proposed in this update. The IPv4 matching label trumps ULA-GUA.

8. Discussion of ULA source with GUA or remote ULA destination

In this section we present a discussion on the specific cases where a ULA source may be communicating with a GUA or ULA destination.

A potential problem exists when a ULA source attempts to communicate with GUA or remote ULA destinations. In these scenarios, the ULA source as stated earlier is by default intended for communication only with the local network, meaning an individual site, several sites that are part of the same organization, or multiple sites across cooperating organizations, as detailed in RFC 4193. As a result, most GUA and ULA destinations are not attached to the same local network as the ULA source and are, therefore, not reachable from the ULA source.

When only a ULA source is available for communication with GUA destinations, this generally implies no connectivity to the IPv6 Internet is available. Otherwise, a GUA source would have been made available and selected for use with GUA destinations. As a result, the ULA source will typically fail when it attempts to communicate with most GUA destinations. However, corner cases exist where the ULA source will not fail, such as when GUA destinations are attached to the same local network as the ULA source.

Receiving a DNS response for a ULA destination that is not attached to the local network, in other words, a remote ULA destination, is considered a misconfiguration in most cases, or at least this contradicts the operational guidelines provided in Section 4.4 of RFC 4193. Nevertheless, this can occur, and the ULA source will typically fail when it attempts to communicate with ULA destinations that are not attached to the same local network as the ULA source.

This section discusses several complementary mechanisms involved with these scenarios.

8.1. The ULA Label and its Precedence

RFC 6724 added (in obsoleting RFC 3484) a separate label for ULA (fc00::/7), whose default precedence is raised by this update. This separate label interacts with Rule 5 of Section 6 of RFC 6724, which says;

  Rule 5: Prefer matching label.
  If Label(Source(DA)) = Label(DA) and Label(Source(DB)) <> Label(DB), then prefer DA.  Similarly, if       Label(Source(DA)) <> Label(DA) and Label(Source(DB)) = Label(DB), then prefer DB.

The ULA source label will not match the GUA destination label in the first scenario. Therefore, an IPv4 destination, if available, will be preferred over a GUA destination with a ULA source, even though the GUA destination has higher precedence than the IPv4 destination in the policy table. This means the IPv4 destination will be moved up in the list of destinations over the GUA destination with the ULA source.

If the ULA (fc00::/7) label is removed from the policy table, a GUA destination with a ULA source will be preferred over an IPv4 destination, as GUA and ULA will be part of the same label (::/0).

The ULA source label will match the ULA destination label in the second scenario; therefore, whether part of the local network or not, a ULA destination will be preferred over an IPv4 destination.

If the ULA label (fc00::/7) has its precedence lowered below IPv4 or the IPv4 precedence is raised above ULA, an IPv4 destination will be preferred over all ULA destinations.

8.2. Happy Eyeballs

Regardless of the preference resulting from the above discussion, Happy Eyeballs version 1 [RFC6555] or version 2 [RFC8305], if implemented, will try both the GUA or ULA destination with the ULA source and the IPv4 destination and source pairings. The ULA source will typically fail to communicate with most GUA or remote ULA destinations, and IPv4 will be preferred if IPv4 connectivity is available unless the GUA or ULA destinations are attached to the same local network as the ULA source.

8.3. Try the Next Address

As stated in Section 2 of RFC 6724,

  Well-behaved applications SHOULD NOT simply use the first address returned from an API such as
  getaddrinfo() and then give up if it fails. For many applications, it is appropriate to iterate
  through the list of addresses returned from getaddrinfo() until a working address is found. For
  other applications, it might be appropriate to try multiple addresses in parallel (e.g., with some
  small delay in between) and use the first one to succeed.

Therefore, when an IPv4 destination is preferred over GUA or ULA destinations, IPv4 will likely succeed if IPv4 connectivity is available, and the GUA or ULA destination may only be tried if Happy Eyeballs is implemented.

On the other hand, if the GUA or ULA destination with the ULA source is preferred, the ULA source will typically fail to communicate GUA or ULA destinations that are not connected to the same local network as the ULA source. However, if the operational guidelines in Section 4.3 of RFC 4193 are followed, recognizing this failure can be accelerated, and transport layer timeouts (e.g., TCP) can be avoided. The guidelines will cause a Destination Unreachable ICMPv6 Error to be received by the source device, signaling the next address in the list to be tried, as discussed above.

9. Following ULA operational guidelines in RFC 4193

This section re-emphasises two important operational requirements stated in [RFC4193] that should be followed by operators.

9.1. Filtering ULA-source addresses at site borders

Section 4.3 states "Site border routers and firewalls should be configured to not forward any packets with Local IPv6 source or destination addresses outside of the site, unless they have been explicitly configured with routing information about specific /48 or longer Local IPv6 prefixes".

And further that "Site border routers should respond with the appropriate ICMPv6 Destination Unreachable message to inform the source that the packet was not forwarded".

As stated in the above discussion, such ICMPv6 messages can assist in fast failover for TCP connections.

9.2. Avoid using ULA addresses in the global DNS

Section 4.3 of RFC 4193 states that "AAAA and PTR records for locally assigned local IPv6 addresses are not recommended to be installed in the global DNS."

This is particularly important given this document elevates the priority for ULAs above IPv4.

10. The practicalities of implementing address selection support

As with most adjustments to standards, and using the introduction of RFC 6724 as a measuring stick, the updates defined in this document will likely take several years to become common enough for consistent behavior within most operating systems. At the time of writing, it has been over 10 years since RFC 6724 has been published but we continue to see existing commercial and open source operating systems exhibiting RFC 3484 behavior.

While it should be noted that RFC 6724 defines a solution to adjust the address preference selection table that is functional theoretically, operationally the solution is operating system dependent and in practice policy table changes cannot be signaled by any currently deployed network mechanism. While RFC 7078 defines such a DHCPv6 option, it is not widely implemented. This lack of an intra-protocol or network-based ability to adjust address selection preference, along with the inability to adjust a notable number of operating systems either programmatically or manually, renders operational scalability of such a mechanism challenging.

It is especially important to note this behavior in the long lifecycle equipment that exists in industrial control and operational technology environments due to their very long mean time to replacement/lifecycle.

11. Limitations of RFC 6724

The procedures defined in RFC 6724 do not give optimal results for all scenarios. As stated in the introduction, the aim of this update is to improve the behavior for the most common scenarios.

It is widely recognised in the IETF 6man WG that the whole 3484/6724/getaddrinfo() model is fundamentally inadequate for optimal address selection. A model that considers address pairs directly, rather than sorting on destination addresses with the best source for that address, would be preferable, but beyond the scope of this document.

To simplify address selection, operators may instead look to deploy IPv6-only, and may choose to only use GUA addresses and no ULA addresses. Other approaches to reduce the use of IPv4, e.g., through use of DHCPv4 Option 108 as defined in [RFC8925], also helps simplify address selection for nodes.

12. Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable input and contributions of the 6man WG including (in alphabetic order) Erik Auerswald, Dale Carder, Brian Carpenter, Tom Coffeen, Lorenzo Colitti, Chris Cummings, David Farmer (in particular for the ULA to GUA/ULA discussion text), Bob Hinden, Scott Hogg, Ed Horley, Ted Lemon, Jen Linkova, Michael Richardson, Kyle Rose, Mark Smith, Ole Troan, Eduard Vasilenko, Eric Vyncke, Paul Wefel, Timothy Winters, and XiPeng Xiao.

13. Security Considerations

There are no direct security considerations in this document.

The mixed preference for IPv6 over IPv4 from the default policy table in RFC 6724 represents a potential security issue, given an operator may expect ULAs to be used when in practice RFC 1918 addresses are used instead.

The requirements of RFC4193, stated earlier in this document, should be followed for optimal behavior.

Operators should be mindful of cases where communicating nodes have differing behaviours for address selection, e.g., RFC3484 behavior, RFC6724, the updated RFC6724 behavior defined here, some other non-IETF-standardized behavior, or even no mechanism. There may thus be inconsistent behaviour for communications initiated in each direction. Ultimately all nodes should be made compliant to the updated specification described in this document.

14. IANA Considerations


15. Appendix A. Changes and additional text since RFC 6724

16. References

16.1. Normative References

Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Hinden, R. and B. Haberman, "Unique Local IPv6 Unicast Addresses", RFC 4193, DOI 10.17487/RFC4193, , <>.
Matsumoto, A., Fujisaki, T., and T. Chown, "Distributing Address Selection Policy Using DHCPv6", RFC 7078, DOI 10.17487/RFC7078, , <>.
Troan, O. and B. Carpenter, Ed., "Deprecating the Anycast Prefix for 6to4 Relay Routers", BCP 196, RFC 7526, DOI 10.17487/RFC7526, , <>.
Colitti, L., Linkova, J., Richardson, M., and T. Mrugalski, "IPv6-Only Preferred Option for DHCPv4", RFC 8925, DOI 10.17487/RFC8925, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

16.2. Informative References

Thaler, D., Ed., Draves, R., Matsumoto, A., and T. Chown, "Default Address Selection for Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 6724, DOI 10.17487/RFC6724, , <>.
Rekhter, Y., Moskowitz, B., Karrenberg, D., de Groot, G. J., and E. Lear, "Address Allocation for Private Internets", BCP 5, RFC 1918, DOI 10.17487/RFC1918, , <>.
Draves, R., "Default Address Selection for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 3484, DOI 10.17487/RFC3484, , <>.
Wing, D. and A. Yourtchenko, "Happy Eyeballs: Success with Dual-Stack Hosts", RFC 6555, DOI 10.17487/RFC6555, , <>.
Schinazi, D. and T. Pauly, "Happy Eyeballs Version 2: Better Connectivity Using Concurrency", RFC 8305, DOI 10.17487/RFC8305, , <>.
Narten, T., Nordmark, E., Simpson, W., and H. Soliman, "Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 4861, DOI 10.17487/RFC4861, , <>.
Draves, R. and D. Thaler, "Default Router Preferences and More-Specific Routes", RFC 4191, DOI 10.17487/RFC4191, , <>.

Authors' Addresses

Nick Buraglio
Energy Sciences Network
Tim Chown
Jeremy Duncan
Tachyon Dynamics