Cisco IPv6 Support Comes Standard

I wanted to share with you something that I have observed in the recent release notes for some of the newest Cisco IOS versions. I am realizing that more and more IPv6 functionality is being developed and integrated into the latest versions. Recently I was reading some Cisco IOS release notes and I have noticed a lot more frequent mention of new IPv6 features. I recognize that not many people sit around and look at release notes for Cisco IOS anymore. I got in the habit of reading these when I was studying for my CCIE as I wanted to anticipate what they might throw at my on the lab. I guess I am one of those weirdoes who like looking for new features in the latest IOS images.

One great place that I like to look for new IOS feature information is the Cisco IOS Software Collateral Library. If you have never browsed through this great set of documents, I encourage you to do so. There are many golden nuggets of information in this part of Cisco’s web site. You can look through documents by-engineers, for-engineers, on the latest whiz-bang nerd knobs for propeller heads. I have learned a lot from this site over the past few years.

If you look at the December 2008 library you will find that there are some new IOS feature documents. There is a document here on Cisco IOS Packaging Product Bulletin PB2855 and it covers what types of features are in what IOS feature sets. As you can see, IPv6 is contained in Advanced IP Services. Many Cisco customers have complained in the past about having to upgrade their IOS from IP Base to Advanced IP Services just to receive IPv6 functionality.

However, if you read the fine print you will see that Cisco has several asterisks next to IPv6 that indicate that “Starting with 12.2(33)SXI on the 6500 series, Cisco is offering packaging parity for IPv6 with IPv4 such that IPv6 feature support for a technology will be packets in the same feature set as IPv4. This parity will be extended to other platforms in the future.”

If you look at the November 2008 Cisco IOS Software Collateral Library you will find information about new Features in Cisco IOS 12.2(33)SXI. This document confirms the good news that IPv6 will start coming standard in IOS versions in the future. IPv6 will now appear within the IP Services feature set. There is also a presentation that goes with this that covers the new features and enhancements in this new IOS version for 6500 switches. IPv6 is mentioned so many times in this document it is hard to count. The new features include:

  • EIGRP for IPv6
  • Multicast address group range support for IPv4 and IPv6
  • DHCPv6 relay options support
  • HSRP and GLBP for IPv6
  • SNMP and syslog over IPv6
  • Telnet and SSH over IPv6
  • 6VPE support (IPv6 VPN Provider Edge routing) (RFC 4659)
  • IPv6 support within the VPN Services Port Adapter (VSPA)

There are also new IPv6 features in the recent IOS release 12.4(22)T. This new IOS version was released in the latter months of 2008. Because I was finishing up my book on IPv6 Security at that time I haven’t had a chance to test many of these features but they look interesting. Some of the newest IPv6 features include:

  • IPv6 Boot Strap Router (BSR)
  • IPv6 Source Specific Multicast (SSM) Mapping
  • IPv6 ACL Extensions for Mobile IPv6
  • IPv6 Default Router Preference

That should be an indication to everyone that IPv6 is being implemented around the globe because Cisco wouldn’t go through all this trouble of writing all this code if there wasn’t customer demand. IPv6 is no longer a protocol that requires special IOS version to run where IPv6 is only being deployed by researchers. This is also an indication that IPv6 is becoming more mainstream because it is being included in the standard IOS releases. Cisco clearly recognizes the potential of IPv6 and is putting a lot of development effort into making sure we all have the features we need to start our migrations to IPv6.

If you have a current Cisco SMARTNET contract you are able to download these new IOS versions and load them on your test/lab devices. However, before you go loading new software on your mission-critical network devices you should check the release notes and check Cisco’s IOS version recommendations. Cisco manages a program titled “Safe Harbor Testing” that lists the device images that are thoroughly tested and recommended for critical applications. This is a great reference for all organizations to use when selecting an IOS or other device image.

You should learn more about IPv6 and these features. I bet you would be surprised to find out how easy it would be to start your migration to IPv6 with the equipment you already have.


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