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IPv6 transition framework for the enterprise

By Brian Heder, special to, Network World
June 09, 2011 11:26 AM ET

Network World - Heder is a senior network engineer specializing in large-scale enterprise and data center network design for the Department of Defense.

If all the excitement about IPv6 has finally convinced you to take a serious look at what's involved in the transition, you'll want to start with this framework. After all, transitioning to IPv6 can be daunting given it will affect every networked device on the planet and it is more than just a transition of technology, it's also a transition of people and culture and the way we think.

When you do a Google search trying to find guidance on transitioning to IPv6, you come across all sorts of down-in-the-weeds technical information on IPv6 transition techniques -- think tunnel broker, ISATAP, NAT64, CGN, dual-stack, DS-Lite, ALG, NAT-PT, IPv4-mapped addressing, SLAAC, etc. These are all important topics, and there is a time and place to consider the technologies, but when you are just beginning to plan your transition, you need a bigger-picture perspective.

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Whether you are a small nonprofit with a couple employees and a basic website, or a multinational corporation with a globally distributed data center architecture, the framework presented here will help you bring your organization into the 21st century.

Before going any further, let me lay out three basic assumptions I'm making about the reader:

* You are already convinced (or at least your boss is!) that your organization needs to move toward IPv6. It is not my intent to make the case for IPv6 transition or even for IPv6 in general.

* Your organization's ultimate goal is an end-to-end IPv6 computing infrastructure. In other words, though you may rely on temporary transition techniques in the short term (some of which you may already have deployed), you don't want to rely on them forever. After all, eventually the whole world will transition to IPv6 and there will be no more need for IPv4. Now that may not happen for another century or two, but the point is you want a comprehensive plan that covers the entire organization.

* You can't simply flip the magic IPv6 switch and make the whole world IPv6 at once, so you'll need to make provisions to operate IPv4 and IPv6 side-by-side for the foreseeable future. Think of it as "indefinite coexistence."

The strategy

Every good coach knows you can't win without a strategy, and transitioning to IPv6 requires a two-part strategy that will set the foundation for a successful rollout.

The first part of the strategy is itself divided into two phases:

* Phase 1. Customer-facing content. Anything that is exposed to the Internet should be transitioned first. This is especially true for enterprises that rely on the Internet as a means of doing business. As time goes on, more and more IPv6-only clients will be popping up on the Internet as ISPs run out of IPv4 addresses. While any smart ISP will provide some sort of transition mechanism to ensure their IPv6 customers have the ability to access IPv4 content, you cannot rely on this as your only means of reaching those customers. If a particular ISP's transition mechanism doesn't work well with your content, who is the IPv6 customer going to blame? You of course! If your website fails to load properly or in a timely manner in the customer's browser, chances are he will get annoyed and move on to your competitor. Therefore you need to make a priority of getting your Internet-facing content onto the IPv6 Internet.

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