"Starting to introduce IPv6 and starting to turn it on now would be a reasonable thing to do," Durand says, pointing out that most broadband providers will support both IPv4 and IPv6 for awhile into the future. "In the beginning, IPv6 may go through some sort of NAT, then IPv6 may go native and IPv4 will go through some sort of NAT. The question for CIOs is: When can they offer a better service to their users by offering content natively over IPv6?...There comes a point at which offering content over IPv6 offers a better user experience to customers and offers you as a network manager more flexibility."
Durand says he doesn't know when CIOs will experience traffic management issues on their networks that will encourage them to switch from NAT devices to native IPv6. One worry is that it will be harder for network operators to filter out denial-of-service (DoS) attacks when NAT devices are used to share IPv4 addresses among multiple subscribers. That's the kind of network management issue that will likely prompt network operators to deploy native IPv6 service.
"If you're using IPv6 natively or translator-in-the-cloud, you have access to the originating IP source and you can filter out the DoS attack on this IPv6 address and only remove the bad guy without impacting the other 99 or 999 users," Durand says.
The cheapest, easiest route to IPv6
Experts say CIOs only need to upgrade their public-facing websites and services to support IPv6 in the near-term. How long that will take and how much it will cost depends on the size and complexity of a company's Web presence.
Major content providers like Google and Yahoo are upgrading their entire Web server infrastructures to support IPv6, including Web servers, database servers, storage, caching, and all the software that's used on these systems. Yahoo has been working on IPv6-enabling its infrastructure since 2008 and has said this is the second-largest engineering effort for its IT department, behind ongoing tech refresh efforts.
CIOs with smaller websites are likely to choose an easier approach: Adding an appliance such as a proxy, gateway or NAT device to convert IPv6 traffic into IPv4 for accessing IPv4-based content. With these appliances, companies don't have to upgrade their Web server infrastructures but they will need to upgrade their network perimeter and routing infrastructure to support IPv6 and they may need to support transit peering for IPv6.
The appliance approach is gaining popularity. Brocade uses its ServerIron ADX Server Load Balancer and Blue Coat uses its IPv6 Secure Web Gateway to support IPv6 on their websites. For World IPv6 Day, Cisco used its prototype ACE Session Load Balancer, Juniper used its translator-in-the-cloud offering and A10 used its AX Series appliances.
An enterprise can expect to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars deploying these appliances at the front-end of their websites to support IPv6, depending on the scale of their websites.
Using A10's AX Series Appliances with Server Load Balancing-Protocol Translation to support IPv6 on a corporate website will cost a company "anywhere from $15,000 to $200,000, depending on the performance that they need," says Paul Nicholson, A10's director of product marketing.