For client-server networking, NAT traversal is a solved problem.
For peer-to-peer networks it is not possible to do in general,
but the potential of these networks in the liberation of users
from "central" services is quite big. The 6bed4 tunnel allows
applications to be designed as peer-to-peer IPv6 applications
with only a fallback (to your own tunnel server) if necessary.
For client-server networking, NAT traversal is a solved problem. For peer-to-peer networks it is not possible to do in general, but the potential of these networks in the liberation of users from "central" services is quite big. The 6bed4 tunnel allows applications to be designed as peer-to-peer IPv6 applications with only a fallback (to your own tunnel server) if necessary.
This article is part of a series on networking.
There are a few tunnels for IPv6, and most are difficult to use. The 6bed4 tunnel is relatively easy to use; it installs as a bit of software and behaves somewhat like a VPN client, though its main purpose is routing over IPv6.
Applications can assume native IPv6 routing (but may impose any form of firewalling they like) and specifically that they can reach ports without NAT getting in the way as with IPv4. If any protocol flourishes on IPv6 it is going to be peer-to-peer protocols. The omnipresence of IPv4 however, lets designs of peer-to-peer protocols use that "for the time being" and lands them in the terrible problems of NAT traversal. For which there is never a perfect solution. By being generic, 6bed4 can solve these problems once, and have all the applications benefit.
The design of 6bed4 attempts direct connections between peers, but hides the details in the tunnel, which runs over UDP/IPv4 and does all the things that are otherwise loaded onto the designer of a peer-to-peer protocol. The places where 6bed4 can be used are:
- As a tunnel serving a single host; this runs as a
6bed4peerprocess that connects to a
6bed4routerthat runs on a server; this could be your server or the default one, run at 126.96.36.199 by SURFnet.
- As a tunnel on a router, serving a LAN; this also runs a
6bed4peer, but can offer a range of 65534 IPv6 addresses through DHCPv6 software (like DNSmasq) to a local network. The
6bed4routeris around 35 kB and
6bed4peeris about 50 kB; they only depend on a C library.
- As part of an application; we have this as a currently open issue but we are closing in on it fast. The protocol is quite open so nobody depends on our software anyway.
How Addresses Look in 6bed4
The traffic routes in 6bed4 depend on prefixes. There are three kinds of interest:
fc64::/16is a local range, completed to
<netid>can be used to distinguish network segments and
<ipv4>is the address of the
TBD1::/32is intended to be globally routable, but we need to formally file for such a prefix assignment. The intention is to make it recognisable that the address is a 6bed4-routed address. The range is completed to
<ipv4>referencing the address of the
6bed4router, as for the previous form.
/64prefixes can be used. These do not convey an IPv4 address, so they are considered local to the
The former two kinds of address are supportive of direct peering
connections. All forms have the peer's UDP port and IPv4 address
in the lower part of the address, but not all prefixes let us
recognise that this information is there. The
will be assumed to have this meaning on a 6bed4 network; the
TBD1::/32 prefix will be assumed to have this meaning everywhere
on the Internet and the native
/64 prefixes can only be assumed
to have this meaning on the 6bed4 network, and only if it is a
prefix under which the peer configured its own address.
How Routing Works in 6bed4
The destination address determines where traffic is forwarded. In 6bed4, the source address must match the sending peer; it is vital that the UDP port and IPv4 address of a sender match the lower half of its source IPv6 address, to avoid tampering with traffic to make it look like it's coming from somewhere else.
The green parts of this diagram form "your" network, the yellow
node is another user of "your" upstream
6bed4router and the
red parts are considered remote parts, either residing under
6bed4router or none at all. The thick lines are the
6bed4router that you have setup for yourself,
the rest comes for free.
6bed4peer processes may connect directly, at least
if the destination prefix is recognised by the sender as one
whose UDP port and IPv4 address can be derived from the lower
half of the IPv6 address. It is this direct peering that is
so beneficial. Your
6bed4peer process works with the other
side to make reliable direct connections when it can, but goes
6bed4router if it cannot do so reliability.
6bed4router may recognise its own
/64 prefix, regardless
of the form it takes, and relay the traffic to the
that uses that same
6bed4router service. It is the task of
6bed4peer to always keep a link open to its
so this is a reliable fallback route in any case.
Something else your
6bed4router may do is pass the traffic
6bed4router for delivery to a
keeps a reliable link open to it. This is called trapezium
routing, and its use is to keep everything in the 6bed4
network and allow for bypasses to be made. At present, the
only considered bypass is direct peering. This kind of
routing is only possible when your
6bed4router can know
the the prefix is a 6bed4 prefix, with the right information
for delivery to a
6bed4peer in the lower half. This is
why native traffic is not delivered in this manner.
Native traffic however, can be delivered if your
offers it. This may involve specific routes or a default
route, which just looks like
::/0 in IPv6. Delivery can
be to local interfaces sitting behind the
it may pass traffic on to external routers that care for
As a special case, the IPv6 address of the
may be connected to backend addresses and ports. In this
case, a service at that address is contacted. It is even
possible to map to another address, which is actually a
form of NAT and awkward in IPv6; this hack is called
masquerading and may disappear from future versions.
Return Traffic over 6bed4
When you send something, you normally want a response.
This is why the UDP port and IPv4 address of your
occur in the lower half of its assigned IPv6 address;
through this, the
6bed4router can always reach you and,
if they are lucky, so can other
In relation to non-6bed4 nodes, the concern is mostly if
traffic can route back to the
The first case is also the most difficult; return traffic
fc64::/16 sources is only possible for local
nodes, because the addresses are locally defined only.
It is a concern when setting up the
process; read the man page!
The second case is possible as soon as we have the
prefix assigned to 6bed4, because it allows the traffic to
be passed to any
6bed4router for the first 32 bits, and
then the traffic is relayed to the IPv4 address that follows
after the prefix. Note how this is a matter of routing
rules, but otherwise already encompassed in this diagram.
Finally, if your
6bed4peer was setup with a native
prefix, as is the case for our default router as provided
by SURFnet on 188.8.131.52, your
6bed4router will receive
the return traffic through normal IPv6 routing and relay
it based on the knowledge it happens to have about the
lower part of the address.
Note that all this is derived from the addresses themselves. There is no need to keep state. This means that there is no reason to log anything, especially because complaints about abuse of an IPv6 address can be translated into complaints of an IPv4 address and a UDP port.
Reliable Peering in 6bed4
A protocol similar to 6bed4 has been tried before, by the name of TEREDO. It is built into Windows machines, and is the cause why Windows users tend to switch off IPv6. The tunnel is flawed, because it makes assumptions about its NAT traversal possibilities. Most peer-to-peer systems suffer from the same fate, and occassionally missroute traffic as a result. You may have had single-sided media connections and this is where it comes from: assumptions based on classification of NAT traversal.
Instead of this inductive appraoch, 6bed4 is deductive.
It simply tries if NAT traversal works, and chooses to
go through the
6bed4router if this is not possible.
When communicating with a potential direct peer, your
6bed4peer will send empty Probe messages to the direct
address. It will not do this for every packet you send,
but try a few times and slow down the pace when no
response comes in. It never fully gives up, so when the
remote peer comes online later it will be discovered.
When traffic returns from the remote peer, it can set a "Seen" flag to indicate that traffic got through. This may have been a Probe or actual traffic. The "Seen" flag is sent on all return traffic for 2 seconds after it was seen, and it permits 27 seconds of direct peering after reception. This assumes that NAT holes stay open for at least 30 seconds, a common assumption but one that can be changed on the remote peer if its NAT works differently; this impacts the "Seen" timing.
This process happens independently in both directions.
The returned attempt is usually even simpler, because
6bed4peer already sent a Probe. And it will
try again after 1 second and after 2 seconds, so under
normal protocols this quickly leads to bidirectional
direct peering. As long as your NAT allows direct
peering at the same IPv4 address and UDP port, then
6bed4 should discover this rather quickly.
There is a method to guaranteer that your NAT supports
direct peering. This is done with port forwarding.
As described before, a
6bed4router can be run in a
router box, and this combines perfectly with port
forwarding. If the standard port for 6bed4 is used,
this even means that the IPv4 address in the top half
be the public IPv4 address of this router. This may
explain why trapezium routing can be beneficial.
Traffic Classes in 6bed4
The IPv6 header "Traffic Class" is used to give a clue about routing preferences for a single packet. Applications can use this to request a bulk and eventually reliable delivery, or fast but possibly dropped treatment.
We use the Traffic Class to distinguish whether
the traffic may, must, or must not pass through
6bed4router. This being the only reliable
route, excluding it reduces the chances of contact,
but you may prefer that for some applications.
We define the following Traffic Classes:
proper-peering(0)is the default treatment, going through the
6bed4routerfor reliability, but passing to a direct peer when this is a reliable alternative.
prohibited-peering(1)is the mode where all traffic flows through your
presumptious-peering(2)tries for a few seconds to setup direct peering, but when this fails it falls back on your
persistent-peering(3)goes even further, and will never route through your
6bed4router; it would rather drop traffic and send errors about it.
These choices are made for individual packets. This means that different kinds of traffic can be treated differently (SIP versus RTP versus MSRP for example). You might even try out one approach and switch to an alternative if you have to.
The relation to a given remote peer is managed while traffic flows, so the state of reliability is known when a later packet hits, and any delays of a few seconds learning time are shared. You might pass a few seconds of meaningless traffic and then add a secret stream as soon as it is safe.
The "Seen" flag is passed in this field too. You cannot set it in the application and should send its value as 0 for future extensibility, but you can learn its value from received traffic. This can help you make decisions about routing policies with this peer, or whether to turn on the green light that indicates safe mode, whether to start a secret flow, and so on.Go Top