Cisco broadens IPv6 support with IPv4 links

Cisco Systems Inc. is bolstering support for IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) in its routing software by including protocol translation between IPv6 and existing IPv4 networks as well as support for other current software capabilities, the company announced Monday at the IPv6 Forum Summit in Yokohama, Japan.

IPv6 is the next-generation system for allocating IP addresses, which also includes additional security, VPN (virtual private network) and other capabilities. It allows for a nearly unlimited number of unique Internet addresses and may soon become critically important as more appliances and mobile devices become Internet clients.

Cisco made IPv6 available in its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) earlier this year for use in IPv6-specific networks. With its Phase II rollout announced Monday, service providers and corporations will be able to connect IPv6 network segments directly to IPv4 networks using new protocol translation software, said Martin McNealis, director of product marketing for Cisco's Internet Technologies Division, in an interview Monday.

Wide deployment of IPv6 in production networks will require interoperability between the new technology and the old, McNealis said.

"You can set up IPv6 in certain parts of your network, but you better make sure you can connect that to IPv4," McNealis said.

Other capabilities also were made available across both IPv6 and IPv4 networks, including the following:

-- IOS security functions, such as access control mechanisms for managing routers remotely; -- Router management tools in IOS; -- MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) for functions such as traffic prioritization and virtual private networks; -- Distributed switching, in which route information can be distributed from a router's central forwarding engine to line cards for faster forwarding.

Deployment of IPv6 in all the devices across a carrier network would take a lot of investment and isn't likely to happen soon, McNealis said. Some carriers may put IPv6 at the edge of their networks in some areas to provide specialized services. They will want to keep providing features they already offer, such as MPLS capabilities, across the core of the network, McNealis said.

The new IOS capabilities are available immediately in the Cisco 800, 1400, 1600, 1700, 2500, 2600, 3600, 7100, 7200, and 7500 Series Routers and the Cisco 12000 Series Internet Routers. Support for the Catalyst 6500 series and 7600 series routers will be available in the first half of next year, according to a Cisco statement. There is no charge for the upgrade.

Also at the IPv6 forum on Monday, Cisco demonstrated hardware-based acceleration of packet forwarding in IPv6 networks on the Cisco 12000 Series Internet Router. That capability will be made available through a firmware upgrade in Phase III of the IPv6 rollout, probably in the second half of 2002, McNealis said. Also coming in Phase III will be support in IPv6 networks for the OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) routing protocol on IPv6 networks.

Cisco rival Juniper Networks Inc. last month announced it was making IPv6 available across all its routers with technology that will let customers run IPv4 and IPv6 networks simultaneously.

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