IPv6: Is It Finally Time?

In 1994, Guns N’ Roses began to write and record music for their new album, “Chinese Democracy.” Rumors circulated about the album and the band, and eventually most people decided it would never happen. The album however finally debuted in November 2008, over a decade after it was originally expected.

In the nearly 15 years this album took to complete, it received incredible amounts of hype over when it would finally debut. This phenomenon is much like the hype that surrounds technologies that come out in the networking world – 802.11ac, 10G and IPv6 to name a few.

IPv6 was introduced in the late 1990s in anticipation that IPv4 addresses would run out. The widespread deployment for this protocol has remained a mystery and has been on almost every IT department’s “to do next year” list for the last 10 years. So, the question is, will 2012 be the year that it will move to a higher priority on the list? Several trends are indicating that this might be the year when IPv6 finally makes a larger splash.

“New” IPv4 addresses have been steadily dwindling, and the global allocation pool ran out in February 2011. Two months later, in April 2011, the Asia registry was also depleted, meaning that anyone wanting to get online would have to rent or borrow addresses from their ISP. Fortunately, this wasn’t a surprise, and companies and governments planned ahead. NTT in Japan made IPv6 available to its customers as far back as 2000, and Japan and South Korea were the two first countries to be IPv6 resolvable by the global DNS system, in 2004. China is also ready, having used the 2008 Olympic Games as a technology demonstrator for their IPv6 readiness.

The driver for IPv6 deployment today is access to the global marketplace, especially the highly sought emerging Asian markets.  If your services are not reachable on the Internet by IPv6, you’re losing access to potential customers and business partners.

Fortunately, all equipment today is ready for IPv6.  All new PCs ship with IPv6 enabled by default, and infrastructure equipment also supports IPv6, even down to home Wi-Fi routers.  Additionally, deployment of IPv6 has been getting easier due to strategies like dual-stack, NAT, and tunneling. Right now it’s the easiest it’s ever been to roll out IPv6, and may be the easiest it will ever be.

Today, companies are less afraid of the switch. Early adopters have pushed equipment makers to fix bugs, ensuring that IPv6 is business-ready. As a benefit, the promise of better security due to the length of these addresses has also driven people to look at IPv6 more than IPv4. The transition is inevitable and the quicker you are to recognize the transition is happening the better off your network will be for the future.  Other regional IP registries are also running out of IPv4 addresses.  The regional registry in Europe is expected to run out in the middle of 2012, followed by the North American registry in mid-2013.  Waiting until the last minute and trying to solve the problem of IPv6 when it is at hand will lead to time pressure on big issues that could have been avoided with better planning.

Companies will not completely transfer to IPv6 in the near future — we still have a lot invested in IPv4 infrastructure, and adding IPv6 is an addition, not a complete deprecation of the existing system. The interoperability between the two protocols may lead to some issues down the line, so make sure you are creating a dual-stack network that can work in tandem with both of these and choose solutions that can communicate on both levels and with each other. There are several solutions already on the market now. If you are looking to add IPv6, definitely confirm that your vendor’s solutions are IPv6 capable, so you don’t have to buy add-ons or new equipment prematurely.

Although IPv6 may have taken a long time to come into fruition – like Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy”, it is not just a pipedream in 2012. It is a reality that you need to be prepared for and ready to implement.

One thought on “IPv6: Is It Finally Time?

Leave a Reply