Sure, youve heard about IPv6. You may even have given some thought to whether your enterprise should be thinking about IPv6. But if youre like most companies, thats where its ended.
The reason most people and enterprises didnt go much beyond maybe thinking about IPv6 is there hasnt been a lot you could do with IPv6 even if you were supporting it, so there wasnt much point in spending time or resources. Now thats changing.
The World IPv6 launch happens at midnight, UTC on June 6, which will is 8 p.m. EDT on June 5 for those of us on the East Coast. At that time, many of the major Internet sites will turn on their IPv6 capabilitiesand this time leave them on permanently. You may remember a year ago on World IPv6 Day, many sites tried out IPv6, but only left it running for a short period of time. Now theyre doing it for real.
Whats perhaps more important is that its more than just the destinations such as Google and Facebook that are turning on IPv6, but so are major ISPs such as Comcast, Time-Warner and AT&T. Hardware makers ranging from Cisco to D-Link are delivering network infrastructure that can handle native IPv6.
The list of participants that have made the commitment to permanently provide IPv6 services is long. There are, for example, more than 3,000 Website operators that have announced IPv6 support. Likewise, there are currently 66 network operators and a few home router vendors. Most modern enterprise routers have been able to support IPv6 for some time, although it may need to be turned on through the configuration settings in order to work. The same is true for most reasonably modern servers.
You probably also know that the computers in your company also support IPv6. Dual-stack IP, in which the computer supports both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time, has been around for a while. This has been the case with Windows computers, Macintosh machines and most flavors of Linux for years. In addition, you can use your iPad or iPhone with IPv6, many Android devices support IPv6 as does the BlackBerry PlayBook.
So chances are your companys network is already IPv6-ready without requiring a great deal of effort on your part. But you still need to take steps to be ready, and part of that means you have to know what youre doing. You should become familiar with the differences between IPv4, which is what youve been using all along, and IPv6, which is already available, but which you might not be using.
Mobile Devices Provide Incentive to Support IPv6
The most obvious difference is that the dotted decimal address youre used to seeing, like the ubiquitous 192.168.0.1 that is the default address of virtually every router ever made. Now the address looks different because the numbers are separated by colons, and some numbers will be left out if theyre not needed to define the address. Youll also notice that the numbers are longer, and probably harder to memorize. You might need to actually have an IP address management plan when you change over to IPv6.
But change over you will. While the internal networks of many organizations will likely remain IPv4 networks for a very long time, the outside world is changing to IPv6. The parts of your network that connect to the Internet will eventually have to support IPv6, even though your internal network wont need to change right away. But one way or another, youll need to learn the new system if only because youll need it to talk to the outside world.
Youll also need to be familiar with IPv6 because your mobile devices may be using it when theyre in the outside world. Mobile devices are the real reason that IPv6 is needed if only because there are so many of them. When you add in all of the machines with machine-to-machine communications, smart devices ranging from DVD players to refrigerators to things such as printers, the world has already run out of IPv4 addresses. But because of the billions of mobile devices that need data, and thus IP addresses, the address space needed to increase and thats why were moving to IPv6.
You can test devices on your network to see if they and the network theyre on will work with IPv6 by going to the IPv6 Test site. That site will provide a report that will show if you have any places that dont fully support IPv6 so you can fix them. As to whether you should convert your network to IPv6, the answer is fairly simple. Dont rush.
The first thing you have to do is find out if youre already supporting IPv6 and just didnt realize it. If you arent, and chances are that youre not, then start in small steps. While IPv6 is well proven, your network isnt. So you need to make sure each step works before taking the next. But over time the change is inevitable, so it will pay dividends to be ready on your schedule instead of someone elses.