How to Build a Business Case for IPv6

IPv6 has the potential to be a turning point in the evolution of the Internet, the global economy and many businesses. But the decision to fund IPv6 deployment in your company is easier to make if you take into consideration your organization's priorities, business model, and the market in which it operates. Knowledge Center contributors Patrick Grossetete, Ciprian P. Popoviciu and Fred Wettling explain how to build a business case that would justify resources being spent for the move to IPv6.

/images/stories/70x50/bug_knowledgecenter_70x70_%282%29.jpgThe Internet evolved from its academic and research environment origins to become an ubiquitous infrastructure used daily by the global economy. Most businesses today, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to ISPs, are partially or fully-dependent on Internet connectivity (as are most consumers). While spending on Information Technologies represents a cost often limited as much as possible by executive management, the critical importance of IP communications and services justifies the significant investments made in deploying them.

It explains the emphasis on their flawless operation. Both perspectives set the bar for new technology adoption: funding its deployment requires strong business cases, and approving its integration requires assurances that it will not impact the existing, revenue-generating or supporting infrastructure.

Making the case for the adoption of a foundational transport technology such as IPv6 is particularly challenging, in the context of the two perspectives mentioned above. After all, this new version of the Internet Protocol has only a few enhancements--which, to people outside the "IPv6 lovers or haters" communities, may not really amount to much of a business case that would justify resources being spent for an upgrade. Moreover, the natural expectation is that this new infrastructure protocol will have an impact on the existing network. So, why should an organization even look at IPv6?

To answer this question, we first need to remember that today nobody really questions the benefits of the Internet and the need for its continuous growth. IPv6 is essential to sustain this growth, to get more people and devices connected to the Internet. This perspective underlines the fact that IPv6 is NOT a feature, but instead, the fundamental IP network layer of the TCP/IP model developed to support end-to-end services and network transparency (which succeeded to end of life most of the 1970's proprietary protocols such as Appletalk, DECnet, IPX, SNA and others). Any attempt to build a business case for IPv6 must take this into consideration. IPv6 is not the answer to all technical problems faced by the Internet, but it provides the resources for its continued growth--and that translates into business value.

Premises for building a business case for IPv6

The IT industry finally came to the realization that uncovering the "IPv6-based killer application" may not be the critical element in considering IPv6 adoption. After all, we should look not only at "What is the new thing that IPv6 adoption will provide?", but also "What will we lose if we don't adopt it?" The impending IPv4 address space exhaustion is clearly supporting this perspective and helping the case for IPv6. But, at first glance, this may not be a concern for some organizations. Moreover, ten years of experimental and trial deployments built sufficient confidence in the protocol to safely consider its integration in production environments.

At this point in time, the perspective taken on building a business case for IPv6 adoption depends less on the technology details and more on the priorities of an organization, its business model, and the market in which it operates. Let's look at the following six examples of case studies we discuss in our book "Global IPv6 Strategies: From Business Analysis to Operational Planning," Cisco Press (2008):

1. Comcast example: Performing the same as on IPv4 but on a larger scale

When reviewing the business growth opportunity and forecast, an organization dependent on the Internet for its revenues must investigate the value of the "infinite" IPv6 address space to sustaining business growth. This is one of the primary drivers for IPv6 adoption, and it is exemplified in the Comcast case study.

2. Bechtel Corporation example: Operational cost savings or simpler network models

A business not directly related to the Internet, but highly dependent on the flow of information, is always considering improvements and optimizations to information availability and distribution. IPv6 helps large organizations with operational cost savings and optimizations, as they have to keep up with a growing geographical footprint, constantly-changing network topology, and an increasing number of networked devices. The Bechtel case study shows how a multinational organization can benefit from IPv6 adoption.

3. NTT example: Deployment of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services

Another example would be walled garden services from ISPs such as Tokyo, Japan-based NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation). When deploying IPTV services, including HDTV (High Definition TV), streaming over FTTH (Fiber-to-the-Home) to several devices sitting on a home network, a choice between IPv6 Multicast or NATed IPv4 Multicast led to an IPv6 end-to-end model simplicity.

4. ArchRock example: Leading the innovation - no IP legacy - new business

IP convergence is not just the buzzword du jour; it is reality for voice, video, audio and data traffic. The convergence process will continue, regardless of the version of IP used for transport. For this reason, all innovative businesses relying on IP-based data exchange should look at integrating IPv6 support from day one on all new products. They should also consider leveraging some of the key features of the technology. The ArchRock case study provides an example of a startup relying on IPv6 to provide another level of convergence: sensors communicating over IP.

5. U.S. Federal Government example: Preparing the future

Nobody doubts that IPv6 will be adopted, and that we will slowly transition to it. Even if this is a long-term project, organizations such as the U.S. Federal Government (which is known to plan projects having a 20-year duration) must evaluate emerging technologies which may become mainstream during the life of the project. This has to be done to avoid major restructuring during the life of the project.

6. Cisco and Command Information examples - Opportunities to win or lose business

When evaluating business opportunities, organizations should also look at the potential loss that may occur due to an inability to address customers' requests related to a technology unfamiliar to interact with its vendors or partners. A business can drive the market by showing how the technology is used internally and how it consolidates its growth by offering products and services over both IPv4 and IPv6. This perspective is described in the Cisco and Command Information case studies.

In conclusion

The above-mentioned considerations underline the fact that, at first sight, the business case for IPv6 is not a trivial one to make. This is typical for a fundamental technology. IPv6 has, however, the potential to sooner or later be an inflection point in the evolution of the Internet, the global economy and many businesses. Regardless in what market your organization operates, the case for IPv6 adoption is easier to make if you take into consideration your business and operational model, along with the basic technology considerations.

/images/stories/knowledge_center/Grossetete_cover.jpgPatrick Grossetete, Ciprian P. Popoviciu and Fred Wettling are co-authors of "Global IPv6 Strategies: From Business Analysis to Operational Planning," Cisco Press (2008). /images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/grossetete_patrick70x70.jpg

Patrick Grossetete is Technical Director of Product Management and Customer Solutions at San Francisco, Calif.-based Arch Rock, a pioneering company in IP-based wireless sensor network technology. Previously, Patrick led a product management team at Cisco Systems and was responsible for a suite of Cisco IOS software technologies, including IPv6 and IP Mobility. Prior to joining Cisco in 1994, Patrick worked at Digital Equipment Corporation as a consulting engineer for network design and deployment. Patrick is a regular speaker at conferences and industry events, including the IPv6 Forum, which he joined in 1999 as a Cisco representative. In addition to the book "Global IPv6 Strategies", Patrick co-authored "Deploying IPv6 Networks", another Cisco Press book published in February 2006. In June 2003, Patrick received the "IPv6 Forum Internet Pioneer Award" at the San Diego summit. His degree in computer science was awarded by the Control Data Institute, Paris. Patrick continues to live near Paris, and enjoys MotoGP, motorcycle Grand Prix road racing featuring machines built exclusively for racing, not public sale or use on public motorways. He can be reached at [email protected].

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/popoviciu_ciprian70x70.jpg Ciprian P. Popoviciu, PhD, CCIE No. 4499, is a technical leader at Cisco Systems with more than ten years of experience in data and Voice over IP communications technologies. As part of the Cisco Network Solution Integration Test Engineering (NSITE) organization, he focuses on the architecture, design and validation of large IPv6 network deployments in direct collaboration with service providers and enterprises worldwide. Ciprian is a regular speaker or chair at conferences and industry events. He is an active contributor to the IETF standards, a senior member of IEEE, and a member of several academic advisory boards. Ciprian holds a BS from Babes-Bolyai University, Romania, and an MS and PhD from the University of Miami. Ciprian can be reached at [email protected].

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/wettling_fred70x70.jpg Fred Wettling manages architecture and strategic planning for Bechtel Corporation, one of the world's premier engineering, construction, and project management companies. Fred is one of 20 Bechtel Fellows, out of a population of 40,000. He has extensive experience in project and office startups, major technology transitions, innovations, and technology operations. Fred is active within and outside of Bechtel, promoting standards-based technology interoperability that supports global enterprise business needs. Fred is a member of the IEEE, North American IPv6 Task Force, and IPv6 Forum, and is executive director of the IPv6 Business Council. He served as the Network Applications Consortium (NAC) chairman for five years. He is a senior member of the Cisco Enterprise and Federal Technical Advisory Boards, and served on the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) Next Generation Network Task Force as a subject matter expert. Fred can be reached at [email protected].