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IPv6: What you need to do now

Six steps to prepare your network for IPv6

By Susan Perschke, Network World
August 29, 2011 01:36 PM ET

Network World - With the official exhaustion of IPv4 open-pool addresses in February, the long migration path to IPv6 has passed another important milestone. Since the IANA IPv6 worldwide deployment announcement in 1999, the issue has never been whether, but simply when IPv6 would become the core protocol for global Internet traffic.

Quiz: How prepared are you for IPv6?

The low percentage of actual IPv6 deployments, to date less than 10% worldwide, lags behind early estimates that predicted full adoption of IPv6 as the dominant Internet protocol by the end of 2007. Factors in delayed deployments include unfamiliarity with the protocol, cost and security concerns, a lack of trained personnel, and a shortage of carrier-grade IPv6 bandwidth providers.

The reality is that even in optimistic scenarios, IPv6 is not likely to become the dominant protocol in the immediate future. With finite IT resources, data center managers may be reluctant to push seemingly optional IPv6 initiatives to management as a 'hair on fire' priority. But a decision to wait could mean higher costs and more deployment headaches later. (IPv6 deployment misperception: Enterprises aren't deploying IPv6.)

As with most emerging technologies that are destined for widespread adoption, at some point critical mass will be reached and by tacit universal agreement the move to IPv6 will accelerate geometrically, leaving organizations who have bet wrong on the timing scrambling to catch up. The takeaway is that even companies with no immediate plans to deploy IPv6 should have a full grasp of the technology, its operational impacts, and at the very least, a viable, well-designed transition plan.

Here are six steps to take now to get ready for IPv6:

1. Request an IPv6 prefix from your upstream provider or RIR

Start by requesting an IPv6 PA (Provider-Assigned) prefix from your bandwidth provider. Even if you don't plan to immediately deploy IPv6 on public-facing hosts, it's important to know if your ISP can deliver IPv6 connectivity. PA prefixes are typically provided at no charge. If a PA prefix is not available, ask for timelines. If the answers are unsatisfactory (e.g. your provider has no plans for IPv6 migration or cannot specify a delivery schedule), you may want to consider beginning the search for an IPv6-capable host.

Qualified organizations may also purchase a PI (Provider-Independent) prefix, which is usually assigned by a RIR (Regional Internet Registry). PI addresses are not host-specific and will allow you to change hosts, but a PI address by itself does not eliminate the need for an IPv6-capable host.

2. Conduct a simple IPv6 'Hello World' test

Even if your current bandwidth provider doesn't provide IPv6 service, you can still begin testing on your internal LAN or WAN. IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, while not directly interoperable, can co-exist in a dual-stack, parallel configuration and are already doing so in some form on most networks. This provides an excellent environment for testing.

The following dual-stack 'Hello World" example uses just two machines (one Windows 2008 IIS/DNS server and one Windows 7 client) and is fast and easy to configure.

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