IPv6 guide part 4: IPv6 products lack features

In part four of our IPv6 guide we look at the IPv6 capability of networking products

Enterprises continue to cop criticism for not migrating to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) but the real laggards are the vendors who keep all the bells and whistles for their IPv4 product ranges.

See our IPv6 guide part 2: Budgeting for IPv6 migration

That’s the view of John Mann, network architect at Monash University, who is one of the earliest adopters of IPv6 technology in Australia.

Even today, many vendors don't have feature and performance parity between IPv4 and IPv6 products, Mann argues.

"Most vendors have a router with lots of bells and whistles supporting IPv4 but it isn't necessarily the same for IPv6," he said. "When it comes to developing products, we like to think forward looking vendors build ahead of demand.

"The situation is made worse because users aren't really testing IPv6 features to see what is missing."

See our IPv6 guide part 3: technology issues

Recently Ovum released research confirming that enterprises are still resisting the move to IPv6.

The analyst firm claims this resistance is due to more pressing IT priorities and a lack of immediate return on investment (ROI).

Moreover, there is no IPv6 ‘killer app’, its main claim to fame is that it solves the Internet's address shortage problem.

"Another challenge is that IPv4 isn't completely broken yet,” Mann said. “Plus IPv6 is a lower layer protocol, users cannot tell if they are using IPv6 or IPv4. For an enterprise IPv6 is an invisible change.”

See our IPv6 guide part 3: technology issues

Despite this Mann said a benefit of invisibility is that IPv6 can be enabled in parallel with IPv4.

“By putting AAAA records in the DNS, traffic can be gradually moved across without users noticing,” he added.

Mann admits the business case for IPv6 isn't exactly sexy, but believes migrating to IPv6 isn't just another infrastructure upgrade.

He describes IPv6 migration as a form of “business continuity insurance.”

"A little bit of expense over the next few years is a hedge against a future when IPv4 exhaustion bites," he said. "For example, 4G mobile users have native IPv6 that works better than large-scale IPv4 NAT. End to end protocols like video-telephony or sensor networking have a business advantage."

Monash University began its migration to a dual stack environment in 2002 and by 2005 was providing IPv6 IT services to a number of faculties.

Just because the benefits are not obvious, Mann said migration shouldn't be delayed.

He said leverage existing upgrade, replacement and testing cycles to add IPv6 capability.

"A rushed IPv6 deployment later will be of lower quality and more disruptive," Mann said. "Extra effort will be required to rework systems already in production. It's always better to avoid the risk of forklift upgrades for incompatible systems."

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