With the number of available Internet addresses nearing depletion under the current IPv4 environment, enterprises need to begin planning for migration to the more robust IPv6 protocol. Because migration can take 18 to 36 months for companies of any size, an immediate start is highly recommended.
IPv6, with its 128-bit addressing format for Internet-connected devices, promises an almost infinite number of addresses. The IPv4 32-bit format, designed three decades ago, never anticipated the phenomenal growth in devices that could be connected to the Internet.
IPv6 provides additional benefits beyond solving IPv4 address limits. It restores end-to-end connectivity, eliminating the need for network address translation between devices. It offers “neighbor discovery,” which allows virtually automatic self-generated addresses for connections. It also integrates a much higher level of security, eliminating the need for add-ons for encryption.
The IPv6 experts at Sprint anticipate that the final exhaustion of IPv4 addresses will come sometime in 2012. In fact, in some regions of the world – Pacific/Asia, Europe --, IPv6 has already been implemented. Because IPv4 and IPv6 can’t talk to each other, that could disrupt Internet communications for companies not ready for IPV6.
The first step towards IPv6 readiness starts with a migration plan. IPv6 planning begins with an audit of existing services and infrastructure for IPv6 capabilities. The audit will help enterprises fully understand the scope of the migration. It should include the readiness of IPv6 for both internal and external applications and systems, as well as hardware and software, It’s also critical to confer with partners and application vendors to ensure they have an IPv6 readiness plan.
As enterprises begin the transition to IPv6, Sprint recommends utilizing a “dual stack” configuration that supports both IPv4 and IPv6 over the same network,
Dual stack configuration enables the enterprise and its IT staff to gain experience in working with IPv6, and simplifies support and troubleshooting as IPv6 mirrors the existing IPV4 network configuration. Dual stack also enables the enterprise to communicate without network interruption with anyone and everyone in IPv6 or IPv4. When the time is right to use only IPv6, with dual stack the transition will be relatively painless.
The need to begin production use of IPV6 may not be critical, but it is urgent to begin planning for the transition. The early adopters will be industries with high growth expectations that consume a large number of Internet addresses today. Those include businesses that partner internationally, especially in Asia and other emerging markets. The federal government has issued a directive in 2010 requiring all U.S. government agencies to upgrade their public-facing Web sites and services by Sept. 2012 to support IPv6.
IPv6 will drive market impacts, including the mobile market, particularly machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. M2M has been held back somewhat by IPv4’s address translation limitations, but in an IPv6 world it can flourish. Research firm Analysys Mason projects the number of M2M devices to increase from 62 million worldwide in 2010 to 2.1 billion in 2020, a growth made possible only by IPv6.
Sprint has been preparing for IPv6 migration for more than a dozen years, focused on standardization, testing, and deployment. The Sprint public test bed has been available to customers and others who wanted to gain experience and expertise in working with IPv6. The SprintLink IP network makes a true native, dual-stack implementation available today, Sprint is launching IPv6 support for the Global MPLS VPN network later this year, and wireless network support is expected in 2012.The latest information on Sprint’s IPv6 status is always available at www.sprintv6.net.
Sprint advises enterprise to be methodical about IPv6 migration; it’s not too late to begin planning the transition to IPv6. Enterprises are encouraged to gain executive level support and make IPv6 a company-wide priority, as being IPv6 capable will ”future proof” the companies IP investment, and ensure a better customer experience. Enterprises should reach out to telecom vendors for guidance and support, as Sprint will help customers prioritize where to start for deployment. For enterprises, this is the ideal time to begin managing transition and control costs and timing of IPv6 needs.