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IPv6 in the Enterprise May Happen Unexpectedly Fast

The Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit and an Evolving Perspective

As I write this blog I’m sitting in the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit. Specifically, I’m sitting in the Enterprise track. And listening to an excellent lineup of speakers, I’m shifting some of my long-held views on IPv6 in the enterprise.

To wit: As an industry segment, enterprises are asking the kinds of questions service providers were asking five or six years ago. How soon will IPv4 address depletion impact my business? How should I begin planning for IPv6? Where in my organization should I focus my early implementation efforts? Based on these kinds of questions – again, familiar questions that were being asked by service providers five or six years ago – I’ve long said that it will probably be another five or six years before enterprise networks are where service providers are today with IPv6.

But today, enterprise network operators have a few significant  advantages over service provider operators of several years ago. One advantage, of course, is that IPv4 address depletion is an historical fact; if you are trying to make a case for IPv6 today, you do not have to deal with the naysayers that service providers often had to deal with. Anyone still questioning whether IPv4 addresses are an exhausted resource have lost touch with reality. Another obvious advantage is that IPv6 support in network products is further along. Vendor roadmaps play less of a role in modern deployment planning.

Much more importantly, enterprise network operators have a firm and growing foundation of practical experience on which to build – namely, the experience acquired by service providers (and a few adventurous enterprises) over those intervening years.

Among the many excellent speakers I’ve listened to today, Shannon McFarland presented a solid perspective on how to approach an enterprise IPv6 deployment; K.K. Chittimaneni showed a practical case study of IPv6 deployment in Google’s internal networks; Paul Zawacki discussed the principles of good IPv6 address design; and Ciprian Popoviciu laid out a compelling business framework for planning an enterprise IPv6 deployment.

What’s significant is that all of today’s presentations were based on practical, real-world experience. There was none of the speculation we regularly saw in IPv6 summits of five years ago. There is still some important trailblazing to be done with IPv6, but enterprises have a concrete experience base from which to launch their deployment projects.

So while enterprise network operators are now asking the questions service providers were asking five or six years ago, they are getting answers that were unavailable five years ago. The result, I think, will be a faster uptake of IPv6 in the enterprise. 

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