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Carriers Speak: Inside Tips for IPv6 Services

Enterprises are slowly starting to get their hands around IPv6 and what it means for their organizations, but service providers have been thinking IPv6 for years now. And what should a service provider be talking about when it comes to IPv6?  We went to the beast itself and had four IPv6 leaders -- AT&T, NTT, Qwest and Verizon -- grade their own industry about the Dos and Don'ts of IPv6.

Carriers weren't asked to assign simple number or pass/fails to their own or their industry's IPv6 preparedness. Carrier services are too complicated for that. However, they were candid about their industry and its successes and concerns around IPv6. The biggest concern? Business value. The lack of a clear business case for IPv6 services right now means some are trying to deliver IPv6 at just the right time. "Since IPv6 doesn't generate new revenue today, we're trying to arrive at IPv6 capability at exhaustion," says Kelly Brown, manager of global internet dedicated service product marketing at Verizon.

The carriers were also wary about the sophistication of their peers in dealing with IPv6. "I would look at how in-depth have the carriers converted their infrastructure," says Bob Schroeder, Qwest director of product management regarding IPv6. "Not everyone has converted [their back-office and management systems] to support IPv6 and some are fairly old technology still exists."

We started by asking the carriers about the types of IPv6 services that are available today. All of the vendors talked about their dual stack architectures, meaning that they can deliver a single line that supports IPv4 or IPv6 addressing simultaneously depending on customer requirements. Dual stack was generally considered to be the most feasible, realistic approach in the near future for the transition to IPv6 services.

However, some instances will be best served through a IPv6 tunnel. Prime examples are particular in test cases where enterprises want to start experimenting with IPv6, something that all of the vendors encouraged. The problem of tunnels, though, is that they're subject to the performance of the underlying IPv4 networks, a network where the IPv6 administrators might not have visibility into on a given route. As for pure IPv6 services, they're mainly used for labs or testing, and most want to access to the IPv4 content.

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