Is Your Network Ready for IPv6?

The next generation Internet Protocol isn't some far-off standard. While you don't need to scrap all your IPv4 gear and invest in all-new network devices today, the time to plan your IPv6 strategy is now.

 By Paul Rubens
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Internet Protocol (IP), or, more accurately, IPv4, has been keeping the Internet humming for more than 30 years. However, over that time, it has been modified, patched and kludged repeatedly to keep up with the evolving needs of the Internet-using community. When IPv4 was originally developed, no-one could have foreseen how pervasive the Internet would become.

“If you are not thinking about planning a move to IPv6 today, it's costing you money.”

Jim Bound, chairman of the North American IPv6 Task Force

Not surprisingly, IPv4 has suffered growing pains: Its address space is too small to accommodate widespread adoption of all the Internet-connected appliances that are beginning to crop up, let alone the potential billions of new Internet users in countries like India and China. Adaptations like NAT (network address translation) and IPSec security protocols have kept the Internet going, but they are only interim measures.

Are You Ready for IPv6?
Soon or later the world is going to move to IPv6, the next generation IP, which includes a vastly expanded address space (128 bit instead of 32), far higher security, and auto-configuration that does away with the need for local Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol DHCP servers and allows global addressing.

All this, of course, is well-documented, but it leaves you and other network administrators with many questions:

  • What does this all mean for you?
  • When should you start preparing to move to IPv6?
  • What preparations should you make? How much will it cost?
  • What if you do nothing?
  • How do you know that IPv6 will be relevant any time soon?

To answer the last question first, the U.S. Government is putting its considerable weight behind a push towards IPv6. For example, the Defense Department — with its $30 billion budget — has been buying only IPv6-compliant networking gear since October 2003, and aims to have full IPv6 compliance by 2008.

Clearly IPv6 is on the rise, and its adoption is likely to snowball as more IPv6 networks encourage the use of IPv6 devices, making IPv6 networks more desirable.

Time Shouldn't Matter
So when should you start preparing? In a way, timing is not critical — IPv6 was designed from the very beginning to co-exist with IPv4, so, in theory, you could keep your head down and ignore IPv6, while continue to operate as you do now.

But, in practice, the sooner you start the better. "If you are not thinking about planning a move to IPv6 today, it's costing you money," said Jim Bound, chairman of the North American IPv6 Task Force. "The longer you wait and live with IPv4 bandaids, plugs and fixes to make it all work, the more you'll be buying that doesn't support IPv6 and the more it will cost you to move in the end."

Continued on Page 2: Strategize, Plan and Test

This article was originally published on Apr 13, 2004
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