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Network World - With the June 2008 deadline for federal agencies to support IPv6 only a year away, network management vendors are starting to upgrade their products to support the emerging protocol.
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s primary protocol, IPv4. It has a 128-bit addressing scheme that lets it support an order-of-magnitude more devices connected directly to the Internet, than IPv4’s 32-bit addressing scheme can. It also has autoconfiguration, end-to-end security and other enhancements.
We contacted several leading network-management vendors, and here’s what they had to say about their IPv6 development efforts.
Cisco has supported IPv6 in its IOS software since 2001. During the last two years, Cisco has begun developing IPv6 support in other management tools that its customers will need to move their network architectures to IPv6.
Cisco offers a free auditing tool called IPv6 Network Assessor that automates the process of figuring out which Cisco switches and routers on a network are ready for IPv6 and which aren’t.
Cisco also hs upgraded its CiscoWorks campus-management software to manage its IPv6-enabled Layer 2 and Layer 3 devices. The software offers limited support for IPv6: identifying address identification, management of some configurations and limited path tracing. However, CiscoWorks doesn’t offer the full set of features available in IPv4.
Cisco Network Registrar (CNR), a DNS and DHCP package, supports IPv6, including stateful and stateless configuration. Cable service providers are among the early adopters of IPv6-enabled Cisco Network Registrar.
Cisco also has an IPv6-enabled Network Analysis Module, which is a blade that sits in its switches and reports back to Cisco's NetFlow traffic monitoring software.
"Over the next several years, you will see us really begin to strengthen our management product portfolio across the board just like we’re doing within our hardware platforms because we see it as a fundamental component of any IPv6 transition," says Dave West, director of field operations at Cisco’s Federal Center of Excellence.
West says one of the first things that network managers need for the transition to IPv6 is DNS and DHCP tools. That’s because IPv6 addresses are so long that network managers won’t be able to remember them and accurately type them into network management applications. Instead, network managers will use IPv6-enabled DNS and DHCP software for those tasks.
"The way we have taken advantage of stateless and stateful autoconfiguration in CNR is an example of us understanding the capabilities of IPv6 and providing those capabilities to our customers through DHCP v6 services," he says.
West says federal network managers will find enough IPv6-enabled network management tools for the initial deployments required by the Office of Management and Budget mandate. Those tools, however, are nowhere near parity between IPv6 and IPv4 capabilities.
"The management products will mature as more devices support IPv6," he says.