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Are You Ready For IPv6?

If you're still on the fence about planning for IPv6 you might find this interesting: In 2010, U.S. Government agencies will require IPv6-compliant products in IT acquisitions. To find out what you should be thinking about in when it comes to IPv6 gear, we  hooked up with  Timothy Winters, a senior manager over at the  University of New Hampshire InterOperabilty Laboratory (UNH-IOL), one of two organizations currently accredited by the  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to perform the U.S. Government IPv6 (USGIPv6) compliance testing. Winters is knee-deep in the equipment side of IPv6, and he is getting a sneak peek at the equipment that enterprises will deploy tomorrow. We present the four tips he has for enterprises when evaluating IPv6 devices.

Consider maturing IPv6 devices. If you can speak about a non-existent technology as maturing, IPIPv6 would fit the bill. Over the past year Winter has started to see a number of changes by the equipment manufacturers in their adoption of alternative approaches. It use to be that IPv6 devices only offered DHCP or Auto Config, but today one can find equipment that provides both. There's been a greater support for more than just basic connectivity and that's most notable in the security arena. Still, organizations should ask their vendors "Do you support in the same functionality in v4 and IPv6?" he says.

Security is a kicker. You're going to have to plan for how you set up your IPv6 firewalls. Security devices got much better in the past 18 months, but for a while IPv6 was not at the forefront of vendor thinking. This means that some of the gear you have in house will likely be IPv6-phobic. Remember, it's not enough for them to support IPv6, you have to find out what they can really do on a IPv6 connection. For example, while in the IPv4 world firewalls and security devices will look inside the protocol stream and ensure that more complex protocols work fine, that hasn't been the case with IPv6 devices.

It's still early days for SIP phone support. While LTE and Wimax are widely seen as killer applications for IPv6, given the fact that there aren't enough IPv4 addresses to support the mobile devices sitting on those networks, Winters hasn't seen too many phones support IPv6 addressing. Soft phones tend to lead on this front, with folks such as Counterpath offering IPv6-based soft phones. The Ciscos and Avayas of the world, he says, are also implementing IPv6. New VoIP phones should be IPv6-ready and with a clear migration plan spelled out.

Secure the routing protocols. Implementing IPv6 amongst the routing protocols has been fairly common, but more recently he says that they've seen a move to secure OSPF from tampering by hacker. Two years ago YouTube traffic was redirected to the Middle East because of a routing protocol error. IPSec over OSPF will help prevent that from happening on IPv6 networks as well. Securing BGP is similar effort. While there have been a number of efforts to extend the value of today's IPv4 networks, Winters doesn't expect that they'll find significant voice in tomorrow's wireless networks. "Carrier-grade NAT introduces too much complexity," he says. "The mobile operators just aren't interested."