The numbering authority that hands out Internet Protocol (IP) addresses has run out of IPv4 address blocks. In fact, if a unique address were required for every IP-enabled device on the planet, we would have run out of addresses a long time ago.
The new addressing protocol, IPv6, could provide 3,000 unique addresses to be assigned to every living person on Earth today. However, IPv6 is not just about address space. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to figure out how to accommodate IPv6 traffic and begin to ask your equipment and services vendors about their plans.
When Will You Need to Switch to IPv6?
For years, Network Address Translation (NAT) has allowed administrators to connect networks and re-use addressing schemes while also hiding their internal networks from the outside world. NAT has kept us from running out of addresses and will enable a smooth transition to IPv6. Even if you were building a network from scratch – you’d build IPv6, of course – you would still need to make use of address translation technologies to interwork with all of the IPv4 traffic that will still be around for a very long time. NAT is our friend and will help us stay connected to the rest of the world, but it’s not a long-term strategy.
The question for IPv6 is not “if” but “when”. You probably aren’t running out of IP addresses, so the first step is to figure out when you’ll have an application that needs IPv6. The IPv6 requirement will be driven by business applications or when the world reaches a tipping point that makes IPv6 the standard. There’s no deadline to have IPv6 as a standard for Internet content or applications, yet. However, some enterprises including governments already require IPv6 support. IPv4 will be around for a long time, but your business requirements – especially if you are a large organization with remote users or global customers – could drive that day to be sooner than you might think.
5 Questions to Ask When Planning for IPv6
General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The plan is useless, but planning is essential.” I’m not sure about the useless part, but the essential part is true for IPv6. It is critical to answer the following questions when you are planning for IPv6:
- When will you need a dual stack solution (IPv6 and IPv4)?
- When will you need native IPv6?
- What are the security implications of IPv6, and what are you going to do about them?
- Is everything new that goes into the network compatible with IPv6?
- Does your service provider support IPv6? If so, how? If not, why not and when will they support it?
Not having a 2012 implementation schedule for IPv6 isn’t a problem … Eisenhower said it was useless anyway. However, not having a plan on when and how to deal with IPv6 should keep a CIO awake at night.
What about you? Do you have a plan for IPv6? Feel free to share your comments below.