Enterprises still dragging their feet on IPv6 migration

Programmers must write applications which support IPv4 and IPv6

IT executives have been warned to stop dragging their feet when it comes to IPv6 migration and to start planning now.

Speaking at the Australian IPv6 summit in Canberra yesterday, Cisco's technical leader, Ciprian Popoviciu, said although the major effects of a shortage of IPv4 address space will not be felt until 2010, organizations should still begin planning for the migration as soon as possible.

"Businesses [should] have an active plan for IPv6 integration. IPv6 brings a tremendous resource, but we need to manage it well," he said.

Ideally, organizations should be prepared to change-over well before a shortage of IP addresses forces their hands, he said.

Organisations which transition to IPv6 will need to upgrade the backend systems controlling their server, and may need to upgrade the servers themselves to compensate for the increased CPU and ram usage IPv6 can require.

Many organizations currently preparing for the shift have also mapped out an address allocation scheme, Popoviciu said.

There are several pressures which necessitate early adoption. For example, the US Government will switch to IPv6 in 2008.

Juniper Networks director of strategy and planning, Umesh Krishnaswamy, who also spoke at IPv6 2007, believes the transition by the US government will cause a flow-on effect.

"As vendors dealing with the US Government switch to IPv6, organizations with connections to these businesses will switch to IPv6 for the sake of compatibility," he said.

Popoviciu said another factor that will force adoption of IPv6 is the inclusion of IPv6 capability in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

He said one way organizations can begin a smooth transition to IPv6 is to begin using IPv6 Virtual Private Networks [VPNs] in the near future.

"IPv6 VPNs use machinery very similar to IPv4", Krishnaswamy said, noting that the similarity should ensure the VPN roll-out is relatively painless.

This switch could prove important - even those with no fears of running out of public IP address space should be aware that it's far easier to run through an entity's allocation of private address space.

"Organisations may find themselves out of private address space, and unable to procure more, sooner than they may think," he said.

According to Popoviciu, another area where preparation is required is security. Even those with no immediate plans to switch to IPv6 must be aware that the introduction of the technology will create new security threats.

He also stressed that programmers should begin writing applications which can support both IPv4 and IPv6.

"Applications should be IP version agnostic," he said.

Popoviciu said there are a number of questions which remain unanswered about the upgrade cycle, one of which is how to dual-stack, or run a host which can accept both IPv4 and IPv6 clients, without doubling the operational costs.

But he stressed that IPv4 wasn't going to disappear in the foreseeable future, and adapting for IPv6 was just as important.

"IPv6 is a necessity, and adoption is a multi-year, relatively extensive process. The process is about integration, not migration," he said.

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