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World IPv6 Launch Day Is Here: Time for an IPv6 Deployment Strategy

Enterprises need to have IPv6 deployment plans in place for their production environments, experts urge. Start with Internet-facing resources.

Last year, it was a dress rehearsal. Now it's showtime for enterprises on World IPv6 Launch day.

On June 6, 2011, many companies turned IPv6 on for 24 hours to monitor its impact on the Internet. Today, many World IPv6 Day participants (including Google, Akamai Technologies and AT&T) plan to turn IPv6 support on and leave it on.

"Last year was a test day, and this year is a launch day," says Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. "It is an inevitable conclusion that we have to go to IPv6."

Unused IPv4 addresses are scarce, especially in China and Japan, Laliberte notes. While some companies have "stockpiled" IPv4 addresses in North America, he adds, enterprises need to start looking at how they're going to transition to IPv6 despite the hard costs that include hardware, software and training.

"Organizations are going to defer these costs as long as they can," he says--although one upside is that many enterprises have probably purchased IPv6-ready hardware as part of other IT infrastructure refreshes.

"The more we can make it pressing, the better," says Andrew Lientz, VP of managed services at EdgeCast Networks and author of the InformationWeek Research report "IPv6: This Time, It's For Real."

The report found no increase in the percentage of respondents actively preparing for IPv6 deployments compared with last year, however. In a May poll of 681 respondents, 38% have no plans to run IPv6 in the foreseeable future, down a mere point from 39% of 632 respondents in June 2011. Just 5% already run IPv6 in most of their networks, up from 4%. A big roadblock is training: Just 10% say their IT teams are very knowledgeable on IPv6.

"Lack of training limits enterprises from implementing IPv6," says Cricket Liu, general manager of the Infoblox IPv6 Address Center of Excellence. He says enterprises need to get started now on incremental IPv6 deployment.

Richard Jimmerson, director of deployment and operationalization at the Internet Society, says focusing IPv6 deployment efforts on Internet-facing content and resources should be a key priority for enterprises. He explains that end users will start to see the effects of how many organizations have dealt with IPv4 address shortage: using network address translation (NAT). NAT enables service providers and enterprises to masquerade private network address space with only one publicly routable IPv4 address on the Internet interface of a customer premise router, instead of allocating a public address to each network device. This can lead to latency issues, which are more noticeable depending on the application.

"Consumers will start to notice," he says. "The concern for enterprises is going to be their own content, their mail services and Web services. You want everyone to be able to see your content."

Alain Fiocco senior director and head of the IPv6 High Impact Project at Cisco Systems, says many service providers in the United States are deploying IPv6 to the subscriber side. "As enterprises presenting content to consumers, it's better to present with IPv6."

While many enterprises have enough IPv4 addresses internally, he says, it's important to reach end users where possible. "If you want to control the experience, then you better deliver your content in IPv6," Fiocco explains.

Jimmerson says it's important to remember that moving from IPv4 to IP6 is going to take time, and enterprises should try to pick a particular project to begin their IPv6 deployments with.

"It's not a complete forklift operation, and even if they do plan to deploy IPv6 tomorrow, it's critical that when they acquire new gear that it's dual-stack capable."

Most enterprises have enough IPv4 addresses internally, says Infoblox's Liu, and dual stack is easy to do with most modern hardware.

Cisco's Fiocco says running IPv6 and IPv4 in parallel will be the reality for the foreseeable future. He adds that while enterprises need to present content and connect to service providers in IPv6, it's important to make sure that IPv6 content is as secure in the DMZ as the IPv4 content.

The Internet Society has developed an online resource called Deploy 360 to guide network operators, developers, content providers, consumer electronics manufacturers and enterprises on how to approach IPv6 deployment.

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