Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Understanding Your IPv6 Deployment Window

If your organization relies on the web for anything at all, you should start thinking about IPv6 deployment planning if you haven’t already done so. The reality is that the face of the Internet is changing from an IPv4-only Internet to a hybrid IPv4-IPv6 Internet. The density of IPv6 traffic today is quite low, just over 2% as recently measured by hits on Google web servers. Nevertheless, this represents a doubling of traffic from less than a year ago. If such an exponentially increasing trend continues, IPv6 traffic will comprise about one-third of Internet traffic by 2017.

One-third of the Internet…at least one billion users by then….that’s a lot of IPv6 eyeballs and potential customers or consumers of your web information! And if they are seeking your email or web servers and you don’t support IPv6 reachability, they will by necessity go elsewhere. But 2017 seems so far away! What’s the hurry? The problem is that implementing IPv6 within your network may take some time. How much time depends on the current state of your IPv6 capability.  Determining your current capability requires a detailed review of your network and computing inventory with respect to individual device or application vendor support of IPv6. Most devices and common applications already support IPv6 today, but if you utilize industry-specific or otherwise unique applications or devices, some research may be required.

If you maintain updated network documentation, perhaps through network management systems, identification of every network device and application may be readily accessible. If not or if your information is dated, you may need to perform network and device discovery to document your inventory. With your network and computing inventory in hand, the next step is to verify IPv6 support for each item, which enables you to categorize each element of inventory as either IPv6 capable or not. For those that are not, you’ll need to evaluate whether each item requires IPv6 support (for example, it may not if it falls outside of the scope of your initial deployment), and if so, what it will take to upgrade to IPv6 support. Such an upgrade may come in the form of a software or firmware upgrade. If software supporting IPv6 is not available, you may need to add or replace a corresponding device or application that does support IPv6.

The set of tasks and upgrades required for all assets requiring mitigation comprises the “to do” list for enabling IPv6. These tasks should be scoped out in terms of required resources, time, and cost then mapped to an overall deployment project plan. Such a project plan may incorporate deployment phases to support a controlled or limited scale deployment initially to “prove in” IPv6 from an equipment, applications and operations perspective. Certainly the more tasks and upgrades you need to perform the more resources and time you will need.

The overall timeframe in your deployment plan, your IPv6 deployment window, provides a critical data point in your decision regarding when to deploy IPv6. Perhaps you would prefer to delay actual deployment based on current adoption rates. Then if trends change and IPv6 deployment suddenly vaults to a higher priority, you’ll have a good sense of how long it will take if you've done your homework and identified your IPv6 deployment window. Feel free to try our IPv6 assessment tool to estimate when IPv6 deployment may impact your business. And for more details on the IPv6 deployment assessment, planning and deployment process, pick up a copy of our IPv6 Deployment and Management book.

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