By Jeff Enters and Yanick Pouffary
As a rule, “better late than never” applies to many things in life: diets, doing your taxes, writing “thank you” notes. As for transitioning to IPv6 … not so much.
As you may know, the industry has been working the last fifteen years to replace Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) with IPv6, which will enable the continued growth and innovation of the Internet. Some network devices are already IPv6 compatible, and many organizations have begun transitioning to IPv6, notably the U.S. government and several ISPs.
But false rumors have also spread, suggesting that IPv6 requires “fork-lift” migrations that are expensive and complex. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. While IPv6 is certainly critical to your enterprise, a transition doesn’t have to be as complex and expensive as you may think.
Just as government agencies, ISPs, and we at HP took a phased approach to adopting IPv6, you can do the same. This can help you contain the cost and complexity of your transition. But what’s most important is that you begin the process now. Start by educating yourself on IPv6 to figure out how it will impact your organization. This will help you understand what a transition path might look like and how to go about a phased approach.
Dispelling the Myths of IPv6
The rumored scale and complexity of IPv6 migrations may have you hesitant to do anything. I’d like to kick-start you into action by clarifying three misperceptions:
Myth 1: A rip-and-replace of your entire IT infrastructure is necessary in order to move to IPv6. Not true. A phased approach, such as how the U.S. federal government is adopting IPv6, is perfectly viable. The key is understanding where and how to begin.
Myth 2: You really only need a few IPv4 addresses, so the expiration of the IPv4 address pool is a non-issue. Not true. As more organizations and markets adopt IPv6, and ubiquitous and always-on computing becomes the norm, it will be impossible to operate in the Internet-connected world without adopting IPv6.
Myth 3: You can work around the need for additional IPv4 addresses by simply using network address translation (NAT). Not true. NAT is inherently complicated and impossible to scale to support the number of connected devices. Using NAT as an alternative to IPv6 won’t work.
Start your IPv6 transition without breaking the bank
The first step in transitioning to IPv6 should be a network assessment to determine how and when you should make the transition. An assessment may reveal some surprises. For instance, because IPv6 has been built into servers, network devices and printers for several years, you might already have IPv6-capable equipment on your network.
After figuring out where you have IPv6-enabled equipment, you can then plan a phased transition to an IPv6 network. My advice is to identify logical IPv6 entry points, such as your customer-facing web site, a branch or remote office, or even within a campus network. Remember, there is no single “right” starting point. Add IPv6-enabled equipment to your IT equipment refresh plan. This will make the transition simpler and more seamless with your existing IT strategy.
Another important consideration is when your ISP is transitioning to IPv6. If your ISP’s IPv6 transition plan doesn’t sync with yours, it’s best to know that in advance. That way you can switch providers when your ISP contract expires. There’s no point in renewing your ISP contract if your provider can’t support your network. And getting out of a contract prematurely can be expensive.
Start now and reap the benefits sooner
The bottom line is that you don't need to spend millions of dollars rebuilding your network in order to transition to IPv6. You can go about it gradually, by aligning your IPv6 plan with your company's business strategy and IT refresh plan. But start now, by assessing your environment. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to reap the advantages of the next-generation Internet. Don’t be left behind!
What’s your understanding of IPv6’s transition challenges? Have they been borne out?
Learn how HP's IPv6 Consulting Services can get you started.
Jeff Enters is a Technology Consultant with HP Technology Consulting
Yanick Pouffary is HP Distinguished Technologist; HP IPv6 Global Leader; and Chief Architect, HP Enterprise Services Office of the CTO.
HP recently held an expert chat focused on IPv6 networking, and how companies can minimize the risks, costs, and complexities of transitioning to IPv6. Learn how HP can help you meet the challenges of today’s dual-protocol world and how to develop a plan for phased deployment that meets your specific needs. Register now.