The Internet Society predicts that IPv4 addresses allocated to Regional Internet Registries will run out this year. When that happens, many new applications and services will only support IPv6. Enterprises will be compelled to migrate from the universal IPv4 to IPv6.
IPv6 is the successor to IPv4, which has been the standard Internet communication protocol since 1981. IPv4 uses 32 bit addressing which translates to a few billion addresses. While these addresses were adequate during the years, when the protocol was conceived, given the Internet growth today, they will soon be exhausted.
IPv6 on the other hand uses 128 bit addressing thereby increasing the number of available addresses to an amount large enough to support the addressing for the entire earth’s growing Internet population.
Are enterprises IPv6 ready?
The move to IPv6 is already happening with service providers and some of them are close to implementation stage. Many government organizations have also received mandates to migrate their systems in anticipation of the need to support IPv6 protocol.
The somber truth is that the majority of business enterprises are not IPv6-ready. They are either still evaluating or in the planning stage because of a lack of awareness and understanding of how to manage the transition to IPv6. Nevertheless, these enterprises eventually must make the shift to IPv6 because users, employees and consumers will demand it. Users and new devices which will be IPv6-capable will drive the change.
For instance, in case of a bank, customers will access internet banking services via newer, IPv6-capable devices. However, if the bank’s applications are still IPv4-based, there will be a breakdown in connection, resulting in the bank not being able to offer online services. This could in turn have a strong negative impact on the bank’s business.
What does it take to move to IPv6?
It is not as daunting as it seems if enterprises adopt a smart IPv6 migration strategy that consists of three stages.
The first stage is to install a gateway appliance to provide a smooth transition between the two standards. Stage two involves the building of the network infrastructure while the last stage is to get applications to be based on IPv6.
The migration process may take from a few months to a few years. The interim solution of using a gateway appliance allows enterprises to continue with business as usual while giving them time to build a new infrastructure and rewrite applications to be IPv6-capable.
Today, appliances are available as an IPv4 and IPv6 gateway. This is the ideal solution as the appliance can operate seamlessly in the mixed IPv4 and IPv6 environments.
It gives enterprises the freedom to test, move and migrate their existing infrastructure at a controlled and manageable pace. Enterprises can also opt for a multi-function appliance that not only acts as a gateway but also, provides application security, high availability and acceleration.
Typically, a gateway appliance is situated between the clients and the servers to provide client applications. Here, the appliance can provide virtualization and high availability functions, making several physical servers with private IP addresses look like a single entity with a virtual IP address. This virtualization capability provides the company the opportunity to migrate either clients or servers to IPv6 networks without changing everything all at once.Possible migration scenarios
There are two possible scenarios for a smooth, controlled migration strategy. Enterprises can either move the client to IPv6 while keeping the servers on IPv4, or they can migrate servers to IPv6 while leaving the clients in an IPv4 environment. Moving the client to IPv6 requires all clients to be capable of attaching to the network via IPv6-enabled pathways.
Most enterprises will find it easier to begin migrating servers (applications) before client devices, simply because the servers are completely under their control whereas devices are often not.
In migrating servers, the gateway appliance is placed between the servers and the clients, and an IPv6-capable server network is added to the appliance/gateway. The result is that the network will have IPv4 on the front/client side of appliance, and both an IPv4 and IPv6 network behind it.
Once the IPv6 network is established, the servers can be moved over from the IPv4 network. As all client devices in the future will be IPv6-based, it is imperative that enterprises ensure that their infrastructure and applications are IPv6 capable.
World IPv6 Day aims to raise the awareness of IPv6 and the importance of being ready to make the move. Internet service providers have already laid the groundwork for this new era in the internet. Enterprises too can seize this opportunity to be at the frontier and gain the competitive edge.