How Network Administrators Can Ease the Inevitable Move to IPv6

1 - How Network Administrators Can Ease the Inevitable Move to IPv6
2 - Defining IPv6
3 - Why Isn't IPv6 Called IPv5?
4 - How to Set Goals for Your Phase of IPv6 Adoption
5 - Why Global Companies Must Act More Quickly
6 - How to Identify and Onboard IPv6 Adoption Stakeholders
7 - How to Incorporate IPv6 Into Existing IT Process Cycles
8 - Setting Up a Security Policy Review
9 - How to Set Up IPv6 for Public-Facing Resources
10 - Why IPv6 Adoption Is More Manageable Than You Might Think
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How Network Administrators Can Ease the Inevitable Move to IPv6

The well of IPv4 addresses has run dry. That means the adoption of IPv6 is inevitable. Here's how network administrators can make this adjustment as easy as possible.

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Defining IPv6

IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol, the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet. IPv6 was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 address exhaustion. IPv6 is intended to replace IPv4.

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Why Isn't IPv6 Called IPv5?

IPv5 did exist, but it wasn't meant to replace IPv4. IPv5 was an early, experimental attempt to come up with something specifically designed to handle streaming voice, audio and video—as opposed to the traditional computer data that IPv4 handled. This streaming protocol was assigned the designation IPv5 but never made it out of the lab and into everyday use. Even though the project was abandoned, it retained the IPv5 designation. So when the true successor to IPv4 came along years later, it was called IPv6. Is that clear?

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How to Set Goals for Your Phase of IPv6 Adoption

Here are some phases (from easiest to most difficult) for scoping an IPv6 adoption initiative: a) Exploratory: Focus on training, management buy-in and stakeholder identification, obtaining IPv6 addresses and developing an IPv6 address plan; b) Supporting IPv6 for external services: In particular, external Web and DNS (a preliminary goal includes an audit of DMZ components for IPv6 support); c) Full IPv6 adoption (configuring dual-stack throughout the corporate LAN): This includes enhancement of security policies to incorporate IPv6 and integration of IPv6 into IT help desk practice.

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Why Global Companies Must Act More Quickly

Along with ARIN, registries in Asia (APNIC), Europe (RIPE) and South America (LACNIC) have all announced depletion of their IPv4 address supply and will only provide a one-time emergency allocation to a qualified requesting organization. Asia, for example, has one half of Earth's 7 billion people, explosive economic growth and a leading role in connecting hosts to the Internet. Service providers and subscriber networks connecting new users in these regions must adopt IPv6, especially given the expense and complexity of Network Address Translation (NAT) as a method to keep IPv4 viable.

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How to Identify and Onboard IPv6 Adoption Stakeholders

Every initiative, no matter the size, must effectively identify and engage stakeholders. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind: a) As the next generation of network addressing arrives, IPv6 has the potential to directly affect every service, application and process in the organization relying on the network (and indirectly everything else); b) Each business unit relies on the network in similar and dissimilar ways, so while ownership of the network falls within IT, IT alone won't be able to provide the necessary budgets, social capital, leadership and knowledge required to make IPv6 adoption a success; c) Stakeholders within each business unit will need to act as liaisons and first points of contact for all IPv6-related issues as the initiative progresses.

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How to Incorporate IPv6 Into Existing IT Process Cycles

A substantial degree of IPv6 adoption can be accomplished by simply incorporating it into existing IT processes. This increases the likelihood that resources will be allocated to IPv6 adoption goals. To get started, simply add an IPv6 checkbox to all process reviews. Three process cycles common to most enterprises are: 1) security policy review; 2) asset upgrade cycle; and 3) IT policy and governance.

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Setting Up a Security Policy Review

For a security policy review, network administrators could include a requirement for IPv6/IPv4 access-list parity. For a network gear upgrade cycle, an IPv6 checkbox could be added for dual-stack IPv6 support. Even if the goal is unclear, including a simple IPv6 checkbox will get the attention of process stakeholders and bring IPv6 adoption into consideration.

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How to Set Up IPv6 for Public-Facing Resources

As IPv6 is adopted on the Internet, enterprise IT organizations must support business requirements to ensure all external Internet services such as Websites, DNS and email—in addition to any other critical applications—are IPv6 capable. Therefore, IPv6 will need to be supported for these external-facing services to prevent Internet IPv6 users from encountering poor performance and degraded user experience when accessing these services and applications.

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Why IPv6 Adoption Is More Manageable Than You Might Think

There will not be a complete migration or flag day; IPv6 and IPv4 will coexist for years to come. IPv4 can't be relied upon solely, but it does help mitigate the risk and cost associated with IPv6 adoption. Many IPv6 adoption goals are low-cost, low-risk and easy. Most organizations will accomplish significant IPv6 adoption goals almost immediately. Most network devices and operating systems are already IPv6-ready, and router and switch vendors have been supporting IPv6 for a long time. Recent improvements to major commercial operating systems have made them better than ever at supporting IPv6.

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