Is Your Network Ready for IPv6? - Page 2

 By Paul Rubens
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Strategize, Plan and Test
Planning and testing are obviously important steps in making a network IPv6 compliant, but the very first thing you should be doing is sorting out your procurement strategy and, specifically, ensuring that everything you buy from now on is IPv6 capable. That way when you do start to test and pilot IPv6 networking you won't have to go out and replace existing equipment.

“It's important that you consider how any home-grown administration tools will work .”

Cody Christman, Verio's director, product engineering, network services

Remember that IPv4 and IPv6 can co-exist, so there's no reason why you'll have to replace everything in one go: By replacing old devices with IPv6 equipment as it reaches the end of its lifecycle, you can keep the cost of moving to IPv6 to a minimum. "Moving to IPv6 is a transition, not a migration, and we guess that the two protocols will co-exist for at least 20 years," said Bound.

The only way that IPv6 is likely to become a real cost burden is if you ignore it and then discover you need to comply with it in a hurry. This could be because customers won't deal with you — perhaps for security reasons — or because you need its functionality to stay competitive. Whatever the cause, if in the future you need IPv6 fast then it could end costing you a great deal if you don't start preparing now.

Equipment Can Wait, Training Starts Now
One area where you will need to spend some money on is training and education. You may be able to replace equipment gradually, but you and your staff need to be up to speed with IPv6 and its requirements. Again, if you start planning now you should be able to get most of your team up to speed by the time the skills are required in earnest.

What about bandwidth? Will you have to upgrade your network when you implement IPv6? Japan-based telecoms carrier NTT subsidiary Verio offers IPv6 connectivity via its NTT/Verio Global IP network, and Cody Christman, Verio's director, product engineering, network services, says the overall effect on network speed of implementing IPv6 is negligible, so there will be no need for costly upgrades — or avoiding future ones either. "The address is longer, but the IP datagram is shorter. And routing tables are simpler, so they could need less processing. Overall, the effect is insignificant — it won't make the network faster or slower," he said.

Are there any other things that net admins should be thinking about? Cisco, Juniper and other hardware vendors, and specialist software vendors, will be ensuring — in no small part thanks to the U.S. Government — that their code is IPv6 compliant, but what about the software you've developed in house? "It's important that you consider how any home-grown administration tools will work," Christman said. Will they work at all? Will you need to rewrite them? How important are they, and how easy will it be to test any rewrites in your own pilot schemes? It would be prudent to check.

Don't Be Caught Off-Guard
There's no question that IPv6 is coming — in fact it's already fairly commonplace in parts of Asia and Japan — and the only uncertainty is when it will be a commercial imperative for your organization to adopt it. It's been a long time in development, but your best bet is to start preparing if you want it to be a benefit, not an obstacle, to your business. Jim Bound, of the IPv6 task force, offers this advice: "IPv6 is a disruptive technology, and I think all of a sudden everyone will be using it."

This article was originally published on Apr 13, 2004
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