IPv6 guide part 1: Slow migration to IPv6 a costly mistake

In part 1 of our IPv6 guide we look at Telstra's enterprise IPv6 trials

Slow migration to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) could end up being a costly mistake for Australian enterprises, according to Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) vice-president, Narelle Clarke.

See our IPv6 guide part 2: Budgeting for IPv6 migration

In a blunt warning to Australian business, Clarke said the longer organisations delay migration, the more problems they face including rising costs.

"Australian enterprises are resting in the comfort of plentiful IPv4 addresses handed out in previous years, but this will cause them much greater pain in the longer term when they can't readily do online business with growing markets in Asia," Clarke said.

"We also anticipate rising costs as scarce IPv4 addresses take on a market value."

With Internet Protocol 4 (IPv4) addresses fast running out, the IPv6 address allocation system was introduced as a replacement by the Internet Engineering Taskforce and ratified in 1998.

Clarke said Australia continues to lag behind countries like China, Japan and Malaysia, which has an IPv6 requirement in its internet service provider (ISP) licensing agreements.

"It is my view that Australian enterprises need to be starting their programs now so that they can take a path of planned, steady migration, and correct problems within software cycles before they multiply even further," she said.

"I'm sure that enterprises that simply outsource their websites to a hosting provider can cut across easily as their hosting provider migrates, but they will need to go back and test things to ensure that there are no IP address dependencies that break critical website functions.

"They may not know this is happening if they aren't using IPv6 themselves. Web site certificates that guarantee transactions are authentic and encrypted are one good example of critical IP address dependencies."

See our IPv6 guide part 3: technology issues

Clarke said slow migration has created an environment of poorly connected islands.

"A big down side of the slow IPv6 take up is that we will have to live with large scale intermediary systems and, while newer systems are vastly improved on the older ones, this still has a lot of shortcomings and adds complexity to networks," she said.

"We are going to start seeing faults relating to poor proxies and imperfect network address translation as we start translating translations. Things like VoIP and Web based business transactions will start to break."

Clarke said a number of telecommunications carriers and large ISPs have deferred rolling out IPv6 when they should be leading the way.

"Many of them, including those in Australia, have conducted private, or semi-public, testing of IPv6 but have not taken it much further than that," she said adding that Telstra's IPv6 trial was canned a few years ago under its previous management.

However, since then a lot of work has been done at the teclo with its IPv6 migration, according to Telstra media spokesperson, Craig Middleton.

In fact, Telstra is set to commence IPv6 trials for its enterprise customers in coming months.

"Telstra operates a number of platforms against which we have a well developed, multi-year plan to integrate IPv6 end to end across our entire network," Middleton said.

One ISP that began IPv6 trials back in November 2009 is Internode with a spokesperson confirming the company will move into full production deployment later this year.

A radical solution to slow migration being advocated Peter Dell from Curtin University's business faculty is government intervention.

"I believe government intervention is necessary and is in the national interest because it will push business to move to IPv6," Mr Dell said.

Whether such measures are necessary could ultimately be determined by the Asia Pacific Internet Numbering Authority (APNIC).

Only last month APNIC revealed that it was down to its last 16 million IPv4 internet addresses, which are strictly reserved for machines to link the old and new naming systems.

APNIC estimates that 20 per cent of devices currently using the Internet have full IPv6 capability.

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