IPv6… Are We There Yet?

Ahmed El-rakhawy is a Global Knowledge Cisco instructor who teaches and blogs from Global Knowledge Egypt.

“When are we going to implement IPv6?” is a question I get to hear every time I deliver my IPv6 course. IPv6 has been looked upon very seriously since 1998. It was supposed to take over in the early 2000s, but we continued to use IPv4 solutions.

Now we face the same issues that happened in the late 90s. We are more and more concerned with IPv6 as we receive warnings each year about the official end of IPv4.

Experts not only suggest that deploying IPv6 is the right thing to do for IT departments, but that those who do so will benefit financially. The idea is that organizations that want to expand current operations or start new projects simply won’t be able to if there are not enough addresses. Those who embrace the change, however, will have access to an essentially endless supply of inexpensive Internet addresses.

Making the Transition
Time is growing short however. The transition from “v4” to “v6” is complex. It covers devices at the core of the Internet as well as the networked office printer. It involves deep cooperation, expert planning, and organized execution. It also requires finagling with devices that have unique configurations and whose documentation is lost and developers are long gone. The move can’t be accomplished overnight.
How much IPv4 is left? Less than 10%, ladies and gentlemen. Should we panic? Actually, no.

If your network admin is panicking, well, ok, but you don’t have to. The remaining IPv4 addresses can be consumed within the next couple of years. Once the full IPv4 address range is exhausted, organizations can begin to use their own backlog of addresses. Those supplies would last an additional 12 to 18 months. At that point, the well will run dry. It is also likely that addresses will be bought and sold on the market and thus become scarcer and far more expensive.

Moving Forward
There is some good news. People are already starting to adopt IPv6. The European Commission and the US Department of Defense (DoD) are pushing the new addressing scheme. Orange Business Services turned on IPv6 in its MPLS IP virtual private network. The service is available now in 35 countries, with 100 more to be added by the beginning of next year, the company says.

These efforts may be paying off. For two days in May 2009 the number of IPv6 address requests surpassed those for IPv4 for the first time. A third day ended in a flat-footed tie. May was a particularly good month, because of a letter extolling the importance of IPv6 conversions that was sent by the organization’s board of trustees to the CIOs on its mailing list.

The perception among experts is that the Internet will indeed adopt IPv6. It has little choice. The question is whether the transition will be managed and smooth or harried and chaotic. The most basic question is the same one that environmentalists ask about efforts to combat global warming: Are the small signs of progress indicative of a basic and fundamental shift in overall perceptions, or are they just blips that signify no overall change on the road to a troubled future?

Related Courses
IPv6 Fundamentals, Design and Deployment

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