The Feds are prepared for the next-generation Internet Protocol. What about the private sector?
It's almost time to get serious about IPv6, sports fans,
whether you like it or not. Are you ready? I'm not, but it's not my fault.
Although numerous ways have been implemented to stretch the
limited address space of IPv4-the "classic" dotted decimal that defined the
gold rush days of the Internet-recent estimates indicate that the 6 percent
of the available address block which is not currently allocated could be
exhausted by next summer.
This isn't anything like the first time we've heard this,
but this time, I'm inclined to take heed. Given the explosion of
overseas, and the insane proliferation of mobile devices, I'm surprised
managed to forestall this as long as we have, with the help of tricks
such as CIDR
(Classless Inter-Domain Routing) and NAT (Network Address Translation).
IPv6 was first defined in 1996, and I've been coming across it in the
field for several years. Some applications need to be rethought to work
others won't notice any difference.
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were a massive test for IPv6;
12 years after the protocol was defined as an RFC, a major world event
ran all its network operations on it, and unless I missed something,
that part of
the games went rather smoothly. But the Olympic Games are somewhat of a
case, I admit; there wasn't a lot of installed base to cope with, and
challenge lies in bringing IPv6 to a large bureaucratic organization
an installed base going back decades, but an incentive to implement
networking technology. Say, for example, Uncle Sam.
The U.S. government upgraded its network backbones to IPv6 a
couple of years ago, and is taking on the challenge of transitioning
systems to IPv6, according to a directive issued at the end of
September by federal CIO Vivek Kundra. His plan calls for the
public-facing side of "FedNet"
to be using IPv6 as an operational protocol by the end of FY 2012,
September 2012 to you and me; the government's internal systems have to
using IPv6 by September 2014.
That doesn't mean that the Feds are dropping IPv4 in four
years; instead, Kundra's memo implies that IPv4 and IPv6 will be used in parallel
for the foreseeable future. Likewise, I expect that the private sector will be
using both schemes for years to come.
It's pretty clear to me that the real pain of implementing
IPv6 won't be felt by business IT, that is, until they get home. I have no idea
what my own ISP's plan for IPv6 is and even less idea whether my router-modem
supports it, but I have a strong suspicion that the answer is "no." That's a
shame, because most of the stuff that sits behind my router-modem would be
perfectly happy on IPv6, as far as I can tell.
Now, my home networking setup is similar to that of many
small businesses; I have a small block of IP addresses and a couple of devices
that in theory are accessible to world-plus-dog. Whether your business
is capable of switching over to IPv6, or even needs to, is probably nowhere
near your highest priority. But it probably wouldn't hurt to start asking
questions. Even if you don't need to make the switch on your
privately networked devices soon (if ever), you'll come off looking good if your
public-facing systems are ready for an IPv6 world, no matter what form it