IPv6 transition framework for the enterprise

Transitioning to IPv6 can be daunting, but this two-part strategy will set the foundation for a successful rollout

● I recently read that nearly half of all organizations track IPv4 space manually. This is clearly unsustainable in IPv6. If you do not have an IPAM (IP address management) solution deployed, now is the time to find one. If you do have an IPAM, IPv6 readiness should have been assessed during the reconnaissance task described.

● Don't forget the WAN. You need to understand your options for connecting to the IPv6 Internet. Different service providers offer different options, so be sure to consider them all. Sadly, many service providers do not yet have IPv6 connections available for customers yet. In this case, you may want to consider finding another provider, or alternately using a tunnel broker.

● Don't overlook your tools. One of the weakest links right now in terms of vendor IPv6 support is in the category of tools. This includes network node management, packet capture and analysis, server management, SNMP management, IDS/IPS solutions, etc. Be sure to focus early in the game on enabling IPv6 on your tools wherever possible.

● Pay special attention to anything that is fundamentally different between IPv6 and IPv4. You may want to instruct your TA leads and contributors to make a list of these items as they learn more about IPv6. I already mentioned the PI vs. PA address space issue as one fundamental difference. A few others include: EUI-64 addressing, stateless auto configuration, ARP replaced by neighbor discovery, no more broadcast, no more fragmentation by intermediate devices, and all subnets are /64s. These are just a few of the things that make IPv6 different than IPv4.

● IPv6 support among vendors is not nearly as mature as IPv4. Because of this, there may be bumps along the road as IPv6 is rolled out, so be sure expectations are properly set.

● Don't forget the need to properly train your staff. This is especially critical for the operations folks who will be working with IPv6 on a day-to-day basis.

● Lather, rinse, repeat. Don't forget that the steps in this chapter and the previous are meant to be performed twice, once for each phase of the transition as described in Chapter 2.

Much more can be said about IPv6 transitions, but the intent of this article is to help you see the forest through the trees. As the IPv6 transition lead, you need to stay out of the weeds so you can help guide everyone else through the sometimes difficult-to-navigate terrain that is IPv6.

Though IPv6 has been around for a while, it is still considered a new technology. In many cases vendor support for IPv6 is not as mature as it is for IPv4. However, enough organizations have made the transition to demonstrate that IPv6 is ready to begin replacing IPv4 as the dominant protocol on the Internet. Though there may be some bumps along the road to IPv6, with a solid strategy and proper planning, your organization can make a successful transition into this new era.

Heder, CCIE No. 24788, is a senior network engineer specializing in large-scale enterprise and data center network design for the Department of Defense, as well as organizationwide IPv6 transitions. Heder holds a master's degree with a concentration in network architecture and design, and has a patent filed for an IPv6 transition technology. He can be reached at brian.heder@gmail.com.

Read more about LAN and WAN in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

This story, "IPv6 transition framework for the enterprise" was originally published by Network World.

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