In a move that may catalyze the industry to begin migrating to the new protocol, Cisco Systems last week announced availability of IPv6 features across products that run the company's IOS operating system software.
After three years and an extensive beta-testing program that involved several hundred unique downloads of the software by its customers, Cisco will ship the "first phase" of IPv6 on virtually all its IOS-based devices at the end of this month. Cisco's high-end routers - namely the Catalyst 6500, 7600 OSR and 12000 series GSR -use ASICs to forward data and will get IPv6 in six to 12 months, says Martin McNealis, director of product management at Cisco's IOS Technologies Division.
IPv6 offers expanded IP addresses, integrated autoconfiguration for ease of installation, quality of service, and enhanced mobility and security. It is expected that IPv6 will solve the IP address shortage pending with today's IPv4.
To date, users and service providers have not embraced IPv6 because they can work around IPv4's address shortage issue using network address translators. But McNealis says many factors will exhaust this workaround and in essence force the adoption of IPv6. Those factors include:
- the continued proliferation of Internet devices, such as personal computers, PDAs, wireless devices, and new Internet appliances;- emerging populations around the globe;- the phenomenon of "always-on" Internet access;- new Internet applications such as multiuser gaming and Internet telephony.
Issues such as a security flaw in Mobile IPv6 still need to be worked out, McNealis admits. The discovery of security flaws in the proposed Mobile IPv6 protocol means the Internet Engineering Task Force will have to develop a new method for authenticating roaming devices that use IPv6 addresses.
This development means months of delays for Mobile IPv6, which was conceived a decade ago and thought to be in its final form (www.nw fusion.com, DocFinder: 4233).
"This mobility registration process . . . is nontrivial but understood," McNealis says. "We don't view it as insurmountable."
Another negating factor is the lack of IPv6 clients in the network.
"The technololgy and functionality are there," McNealis says. "We need clients to smooth the migration."
Cisco's IPv6 code will ship in IOS software release 12.2(1)T. Platforms to be supported at this time include: Cisco's 800, 1400, 1600, 1700, 2500, 2600, 3600, 4500, and 4700 series routers; AS5300 and AS 5400 Universal Access Servers; and 7100, 7200, and 7500 series routers.