"2012 is a great time to learn and to plan," Liu said. "Capitalize on the lead time that you have available to you." He recommended steps such as educating IT staff, getting them to experiment with IPv6 in a lab setting, and putting together a plan for deploying the new protocol on Internet-facing devices on the periphery of the network. "Figure out how to incorporate IPv6 into your upgrade cycles and your process update cycles" to get prepared for a smooth deployment, Infoblox's Coffeen suggested.
Security is also something to think about soon, because it can't wait until after adopting IPv6, said Qing Li, chief scientist at BlueCoat Systems, a Web security and wide-area network optimization company. He estimated that most enterprises will take five to 10 years from the start of IPv6 adoption until they have eliminated IPv4. Using the new protocol, or a combination of the two, presents different kinds of threats, he said. "Five to ten years is a long time. You'd better know how to secure your network in this mixed-mode environment," Li said.