IPv6 training - is it inevitable?

* Who should get IPv6 training and when?

This month, Command Information, a start-up IPv6 professional services firm, opened the country's first IPv6 training center in Herndon, Va. The center features systems running in native IPv6 mode, including Vista PCs, Nokia IPv6-enabled handsets, Cisco and Juniper routers, and offers native IPv6 connectivity to dozens of sites in the United States, according to Command Information. That got me thinking just how critical is it to get IPv6 training right now?

Unless you work for a government agency, an organization that provides IT services to such agencies, or are based in Japan, China or South Korea, you probably won't see your firm adopting IPv6 until 2017, a date cited by Burton Group analyst Jeffrey Young. But some industry players say migrating to the new protocol is inevitable and getting immediate training is worthwhile for a number of people.

The protocol has been in development for more than 10 years and was built as an upgrade to IPv4, which was running out of address space. IPv6 was given a boost in the United States by the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget as they both issued mandates to the military and government agencies, respectively, to transition to the new protocol by 2008. China, Japan and South Korea have also mandated adoption of the protocol.

The U.S. deadlines have helped to increase the interest in IPv6 training among network engineers in federal agencies, as well as those who work for companies that support such agencies, says Yurie Rich, director of IP services at Command Information, who previously led Native6, an IPv6 training provider that was acquired by Command Information last February.

Rich says it is worth security pros getting IPv6 training now because the protocol could be in use in organizations without their knowledge. As the protocol has been supported in most operating systems since Windows 2000, Rich says: "Somebody may be tinkering away and have an IPv6 tunnel open on your network, which would be a security breach."

Depending on where your organization is regarding IPv6 adoption, Rich suggests three phases for IPv6 training. When organizations are planning for IPv6 deployment, they should send out individuals such as network architects, security policy creators and others with forward-thinking roles to get training. Before integration or deployment, you would train your application developers who may be developing customized applications to run on the protocol. Then once implementation has begun, you would train the folks who would manage the network day-to-day, such as help desk personnel and network administrators.

Aside from Command Information, there are a number of companies providing IPv6 training, including Eno.com, Sunset Learning Institute and Innofone. Many courses offer IPv6 fundamentals and tracks looking at security, transition planning and applications programming and support.

Cisco training partners also provide Cisco-focused IPv6 training that was developed by Native6. The two courses are IPv6 Fundamentals, and IPv6 Design and Deployment. Rich says there are plans to update and combine the two courses into a new five-day course that will be rolled out in the fourth quarter. The Cisco courses are aimed at network engineers who will be managing the IPv6 nets.

Aside from the federal market, commercial organizations haven't been clamoring to migrate to IPv6. As such, there hasn't been an urgent call for an IPv6 professional certification, but it could be on the horizon once deployment gets into full swing - whenever that may be.

Rich says: "IPv6 isn't going to help e-mail, Web surfing, VPN or CRM. But if you're a General Motors, or a 3M, and you have machinery and all kinds of proprietary systems that monitor all of that on a single communications backbone - IPv6 offers a strategic advantage."

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