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IPv6 Adoption: a quick guide


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Open quoteInternet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is a version of the Internet Protocol that is designed to succeed Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). IPv4 is the first publicly used revision of the Internet Protocol (IP) and has been in operation since 1981, but its address space is too small for further expansion of the Internet.Close Quote

Wikipedia, January 2011

What this doesn't tell us is how quickly the IPv4 address space is running out. In fact, the answer is "very quickly", with current estimates (as widely reported by the BBC, The Telegraph and others) suggesting the remaining IPv4 space will all be allocated by the end of 2011. In practice, this means that we are fast approaching a point where broad support for IPv6 will become a necessity.

The pressure on the Internet address space has accelerated over the last decade as IP connected devices have become increasingly ubiquitous. With everything from telephones to iPads needing an IP address is not surprising that the numbers are running out.

However, while IPv6 offers the solution (with an addressable footprint of 3.4 x 1038 address to the partly 4 billion addresses of IPv4) it requires careful planning, testing and implementation for successful adoption.

The challenge

By its very nature, IPv6 is a substantially different beast to IPv4. From the address notation to the detailed features of the protocol the similarities between the two are few and far between. Perhaps most importantly however, the new IPv6 doesn't implement any interoperability features with IPv4.

In practice, this means that adoption of IPv6 leads to effectively creating a parallel, independent network to your existing IPv4 networks.

While most up-to-date computer operating systems can support the dual-protocol software, and thus transparent access to both networks, the actual implementation is less straight forward. For example, factors that must be considered include:

  • Interconnection strategies between new IPv6 and legacy IPv4 networks;
  • Support for IPv6 in network management software and some intelligent managed switches;
  • Contingency for devices that don't support IPv6 (e.g. some VoIP solutions, printers, etc.);
  • New IPv6 addressing and migration strategies;

When done correctly, almost all of these issues can be addressed transparently to end users. When things go wrong it can be both disruptive and costly. The onus is therefore very much on ensuring adoption is planned and managed very carefully.

What has been done so far?

Awareness of the need for IPv6 adoption is finally growing. A number of initiatives are well underway and some substantial milestones have been achieved:

However, this is just the beginning. In addition, there is a serious lack of coordinated and focused adoption planning and support. While a quick search on Google throws up a raft of different "working groups", "forums" and "associations" referencing IPv6 the lack of a clear centralised authority makes it almost impossible to know where to begin.

Where next?

Meaningful mainstream adoption of IPv6 is still a long way off and there is much work to be done as a result. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick on IPv4 and no-one is really entirely sure what will happen when those numbers run out.

Business much accept that IPv6 is already here and begin planning their own migration. Thinking ahead and doing things right can mean the transition is smooth, transparent and painless. Hoping the problem will simply go away is not an option!

NetThatWorks contact centre staffFurther information

To find out how we could help your business contact the team at NetThatWorks. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

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How can we help?

At NetThatWorks we understand IPv6. We have already migrated a number of network infrastructures to the new protocol and know first hand the pitfalls (and short-cuts).

In addition, we are proactively working with our partners like Vyatta to ensure that their products are fully IPv6 compliant once in the field. This means you can be confident that an a NetThatWorks IPv6 solution will be efficient, effective and trusted.

We will:

  • Assess the scope of your IPv6 adoption requirements;
  • Recommend an adoption strategy and action plan;
  • Oversee the design, implementation and provisioning of your IPv6 infrastructure;

Our role is to deal with the detail of transition design and implementation leaving you to focus on your business.


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Useful IPv6 resources

Information about IPv6 is becoming increasingly prevalent. The following are a number of useful and authority sources of information on the protocol and it's adoption: