27 Jun 2011

Addressed to number 6: The IPv6 transition

Named World IPv6 Day, June 8 was an awareness day to acknowledge the trillions of new IP addresses now available after the previous version – IPv4 – began to show its limitations. World IPv6 Day was not a ‘switch over’ day like Y2K, rather it recognised that we have exhausted the pool of IP addresses available and need to pay attention to this project, a progressive transition to the new system.

What’s happening?
IPv4 is a decades-old IP addressing scheme with some 4 billion combinations allowing us access to the internet, where each device on a network has a unique identification number. IPv6 recognises that with a growing number of organisations online, and an increasing number of devices in each network, we need trillions of IP addresses to operate in a digital world.

What you need to know
The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 started a few years ago but not everyone is IPv6 ready. We need to make sure existing businesses running on IPv4 can support the new system, and new businesses that have IPv6 addresses can accommodate customers functioning on the old system. Organisations therefore need to test that their internet operations can handle both IPv4 and IPv6 to allow access to people and devices on both systems, and to offer the best performance for those connections.

For most it’s a relatively seamless and unobtrusive process to get on the IPv6 address scheme. Most Managed Service Providers have either already completed this or are in the process of doing so. The majority of organisations are ‘dual-stacking’ – this is the process of running both IPv4 and the new IPv6 addressing schemes simultaneously.

If you are not with a managed service provider, here are some steps you need to take to ensure you are IPv6 ready.

Ask your ISP if it is IPv6 enabled. All reputable ISPs should be, but they may not specifically inform you. Don’t get left behind or in a situation where you can access everything available – but your customers can’t get to you.

Develop a project to upgrade your system. This could include backing up your data before the upgrade, running a proof of concept, and running a pilot to make sure the new operating system functions within your organisational environment with all the required software. Work with your Managed Service Provider or a reputable Service Integrator to understand how IPv6 works and how your ISP will route your traffic. Consider that staff in your IT department may need training to operate IPv6.

Consider cloud computing as an alternative. Upgrades often become a decision point for many people who see there’s no reason to upgrade the servers with all of the software compared with a cloud solution.

IPv6 will also revolutionise the types of items that will connect to the internet. Far from being just people behind computers and mobile devices accessing websites, IPv6 allows all sorts of possibilities: from a health monitor having an IP address so medical staff can remotely check the progress of a patient once discharged, to an item on a supermarket shelf having an IP address so it can be tracked, and more can be ordered according to supply and demand.

Brennan IT’s cloud products are fully compliant with IPv6, so let us assess your IPv6 internal capability and help you prepare a migration plan that will ensure your IP networks are future-proofed. Right now, businesses on the front foot have the opportunity to be an early adopter of IPv6 to take advantage of the superior technical performance and efficiencies it offers.

For further information, contact your Brennan IT representative.