News

IPv6 Action Plan

Anthony Caruana

Depending on your point of view and who you listen to the exhaustion of global IPv4 addresses was either a sign of the coming apocalypse or a non-event. Regardless of where your views fall on that spectrum, the reality is that IPv6 will become a fact of life for your business. The question is really about "When?" and not "If?".

The good news is that while the last IPv4 address was allocated by APNIC in the middle of April, other agencies are still handing out what they have. So, there are still a few more years ahead of us until there are actually the last of the 4.3 billion addresses is used. However, there's no reason why businesses and governments can't start planning for the change to IPv6 now. Indeed, government agencies at the state and federal levels in Australia have been doing analysis and planning for about five years.

So, what can you do now?

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1. Look at procurement.

This is the easy first step. As you purchase new networking equipment and end-point devices ensure that the device supports IPv6. That means adding IPv6 support to all your procurement procedures and specifications.

All of the main network hardware manufacturers have been supporting IPv6 for some time.

With Windows 7 and Mac OS systems, IPv6 has been supported for some time and isn't likely to be an issue.

The holdouts have been mobile devices. iOS 4, for the iPhone and iPad supports IPv6 without any configuration. IPv6 is permanently enabled and will be used where available. With BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Enterprise server is still waiting for IPv6 support. Android handsets are reported to have support but it seems a little hit and miss still.

2. Deployment planning

IPv6 implementation needs to be a robustly planned project. Given that there's no rush to get IPv6 implemented the risks of a big bang changeover can be avoided. It's possible to run both IPv4 and IPv6 concurrently with dual-stacks allowing you to avoid the pressure to transition as soon as possible. Also, running parallel networks means that you'll have a reasonably easy fall back plan in the event that you encounter an unexpected problem with a specific application or service.

The approach most organisations we've looked at are taking is to start the transition at the network core and then move to the edges. This means end users are amongst the last to be affected by the switch and will benefit from having your technical staff at their most familiar with the changed protocol.

Other approaches that are important to look at include tunnelling where IPv6 traffic is encapsulated within IPv4 so that it can be carried across IPv4 routing infrastructures or translation mechanisms where IPv6 packets are translated into IPv4 traffic. There are also translation tools for taking IPv6 traffic and converting it to IPv4 or vice-versa.

On the upside, there's no single solution that you are forced to take and no fixed timeframe for your project. However, the counter is that you'll need spend some time on technical analysis to choose the best technical transition plan as you might need different deployment strategies for different parts of your business.

3. Training your technical staff

This one is a given. However, a solid grounding in how IPv6 works can be invaluable. Techniques such as router naming can be very useful for both transition and ongoing maintenance of your IPv6 network. None of the plans we've seen from government agencies and businesses specifically mention staff development.


In summary

1 - Make IPv6 part of your business's procurement methodology.

2 - Look at your existing infrastructure and look for the deployment methodology that will work best for you.

3 - Invest in your people.

Useful references
 

A Beginner's Look into IPv6

Tasmanian Government IPv6 Transition Strategy

Creating a Practical IPv6 Transition Plan (Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit)

A Strategy for the Implementation of IPv6 in Australian Government Agencies