IPv6: What and why?

Some of the most popular posts and discussions at Webtorials continue to revolve around IPv6. In particular, we feel as if enterprises are struggling to decide exactly what their implementation strategies should be and how they can best implement that strategy.

IPv6 and the Feds: Leadership or Folly?

In our last newsletter, we referenced a Sept. 28, 2010, memo from the office of the Federal CIO. In particular, the memo stated:

"The federal government must transition to IPv6 in order to:cloud computing, broadband, and SmartGrid, which rely on robust, scalable Internet networks;

• "Enable the successful deployment and expansion of key federal information technology (IT) modernization initiatives, such as

• "Reduce complexity and increase transparency of Internet services by eliminating the architectural need to rely on Network Address Translation (NAT) technologies.

• "Enable ubiquitous security services for end-to-end network communications that will serve as the foundation for securing future federal IT systems.

• "Enable the Internet to continue to operate efficiently through an integrated, well-architected networking platform and accommodate the future expansion of Internet-based services."

Let's examine each point in order.

To the first point, all of the functions listed here are being performed today rather well using IPv4. Would IPv6 be "good"? Probably. But we are unconvinced of the absolute urgency.  

So far as eliminating NAT is concerned, that's a tough one. Some functions, such as direct IP telephony would be easier without NAT. At the same time, NAT also acts as a pretty effective firewall in many cases. Perhaps the most compelling reasoning behind eliminating NAT is that it will be easier to identify the most probable originator of a message. However, since IPv4 address spoofing has been around for years, the network infrastructure must somehow identify spoofed IPv6 addresses.

And maybe the belief that IPv6 addresses will not be spoofed is behind the third point, indicating that federal IT systems will be more secure. And to the last point, sure. But we also like Mom and Apple pie.

If you look at most other sources, the only really credible reason to move to IPv6 is to increase the address space. As pointed out in a recent Web cast by AT&T, the demand for IP-enabled devices is devices is increasing exponentially while fewer than 6% of the IPv4 addresses are available globally.

So the bottom line is that while the feds are perhaps a little overly zealous (if we discount the ambiguity), enterprises do indeed need a migration plan. And we'll examine that in the next newsletter.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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