IPv6 seen as a boon for IT support staff

Australian companies may be slow in transitioning to IPv6, but having more Automatic configuration features is a key benefit of the technology that will become more popular, said AARnet IPv6 working committee chair Michael Biber.

Speaking at the Connecting the Future 2003 conference in Sydney, Biber said the protocol will improve IT support.

"The IPv6 protocol supports Autoconfiguration, which allows a kind of plug and play where devices can give themselves a local IP address so that they can connect with the local network and discover the resources that are available to them," Biber said.

"It improves efficiency, security and control. When fully deployed, it should prove a boon to internal IT support staff." Biber said IPv6 allows the freedom to be able to re-number networks and not be tied to ISPs or other carriers. In addition, predecessor IPv4 doesn't have enough addresses to support the 'IP-over-everything' Internet where billions of IP addresses for all sorts of devices.

"The assignment of billions of unique globally routable addresses re-establishes the end-to-end identity relationship that's been broken by Network Address Translation (NAT). IPv6 facilitates the establishment of end-to-end trust by enabling authentication without inefficient need for a third party."

Next generation IPv6 protocols will provide crucial support for today's hot topics of convergence and wireless, Biber said.

"These are mutually supportive environments; neither inter-carrier converged networks nor wireless mobility will scale without IPv6," he said. "IPv6 is likely to be the mainstream choice from around 2005 and 2006 when virtually all major new IP deployments from then will be based on IPv6 addressing and protocols."

Regarding mobility, Biber said it means much more that just "moving around".

"Mobility means seamless handovers between multiple carriers over multiple technologies," he said. "IPv6 provides the tools that allow nodes to roam across different carrier's 3G, GPRS, Wireless LAN, Packet Radio and fixed networks, handing off smoothly and allowing continuous voice, video or data application sessions."

Biber said there is a learning curve associated with any new technology but IPv6 is a logical extension of IPv4, not a radical replacement.

"The learning curve is there, but not steep. I'm optimistic that the Australian industry will not be left behind in the technological shadow of Japan, Korea, China and Europe. We simply can't afford it," he said.

Juniper Networks' Australia and New Zealand systems engineering manager Roger Geerts said Australian customers and carriers have not been in a hurry to move to IPv6. However, there are clear benefits for security.

"Authentication and encryption are inherent to IPv6. Both these are possible with IPv4 but as add-ons, so one could assume security would be simpler with IPv6," he said.

When asked about the best way for businesses to approach the new technology, Geerts said: "One way is to run dual stacks on your networking equipment. This allows testing of IPv6 applications while not impacting existing IPv4 traffic."

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