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IPv6 management tools lacking

Experts fear it’ll be twice the work to run IPv4-IPv6 networks

By , Network World
June 07, 2007 03:05 PM ET

Network World - When it comes to network management software that supports IPv6, buyers should be wary.

An increasing number of network monitoring and management tools support IPv6, but these products often don’t include the full set of features available in IPv4. And few commercial offerings provide the extra capabilities needed for IPv6, an upgrade to the Internet’s primary protocol that has a new addressing scheme, built-in autoconfiguration and end-to-end security, among other features.


Vista not playing well with IPv6
Where eight network management vendors stand on IPv6


“We deployed IPv6 many years ago, and from a network-centric point of view, there are still some basic things that aren’t there yet,” says Rick Summerhill, director of network research, architecture and technologies for Internet2, a next-generation network run by a consortium of U.S. universities.

“We rely on [Cisco] NetFlow to analyze what goes on in our network, and that isn’t there yet for IPv6. It’s little things, like being able to do usage on our interface,” Summerhill says, pointing out that both routers and network management software are missing key features. “The ability to analyze your network in some way — that’s what’s still missing.”

Summerhill says this gap in the ability of network management software to handle IPv6 leaves networks that are moving to the new standard vulnerable to attack.

With new technology like IPv6, “you’re much more vulnerable to attacks or to malicious attempts to disrupt your network, and the ability to analyze those attacks when they happen is really important,” Summerhill says.

Experts say the need for network monitoring and management tools for IPv6 is even greater than tools for today’s IPv4 networks for several reasons:

* Networks of the future will be more complicated than today’s because they will run IPv4 and IPv6 side by side for years during the transition from one standard to the other.

* IPv6 lets network managers directly address more network devices than ever before, which will lead to larger networks.

* IPv6 addresses are longer and more cumbersome to display and store in network management applications.

* IPv6 packet headers are larger, and there are more of them, and that’s a challenge for network management and monitoring tools.

* New IPv6 features, such as end-to-end security, will make it harder to monitor packets for network traffic analysis.

That’s why it’s critical that network managers have tools to monitor and manage IPv6 devices and traffic, to analyze both network protocols, and to help with troubleshooting.

Where things stand
Select network management tools offering IPv6 support:

Tool Vendor IPv6 status Description
Adonis, Proteus Appliances BlueCat Networks Announced IPv6 support in March DNS and DHCP devices support IPv4 and IPv6.
AppCritical Apparent Networks Due by June 2008 IPv6 support is under development for network management software.
CiscoWorks Cisco Supports IPv6 Campus management software can manage IPv6 Layer 2 and Layer 3 devices.
Cisco Network Analysis Module Cisco Supports IPv6 Blade that sits in Cisco switches reports on IPv6 traffic flows.
Cisco Network Registrar Cisco Supports IPv6 This DNS/DHCP service has offered IPv6 support for a year.
EMC Smarts IP Availability Manager EMC Extension for IPv6 is first step in IPv6 support EMC is developing IPv6 support for Network Protocol Manager, Multicast Manager and MPLS Manager.
OpenView Network Node Manager HP Supports IPv6 Offers dynamic views for IPv6.
IBM Tivoli Network Manager IBM Due fourth quarter 2007 Will support IPv6/IPv4 dual-stack but not tunneling.
IBM Tivoli Netcool/Omnibus IBM Due fourth quarter 2007 Will support IPv6/IPv4 dual-stack but not tunneling.
NetMRI Netcordia Due by June 2008 IPv6 support under development for real-time network analytics appliance.
Observer Network Instruments Released with Version 12 in March Implemented support for IPv6 across entire application in both software and appliances.
Sniffer Distributed & Portable Network General Due in 2007 IPv6 enhancements will be available in all products, limited IPv6 support already available.
SolidDNS InfoWeapons Added IPv6 support last fall First DNS appliance to support IPv4 and IPv6 running in dual-stack mode.
Windows Server 2008 DHCP Microsoft Supports IPv6 Supports stateless and stateful configuration.
Click to see: Where network management tools stand with IPv6

“We believe that both security and management have to be top-of-mind in any customer transition to IPv6,” says Dave West, director of field operations for Cisco’s Federal Center of Excellence. “You have to be able to manage devices and visualize the flows.”

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