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Enterprise IPv6 Deployment Stories at Summit a Refreshing Change

I recently attended the 2012 North American IPv6 Summit in Denver. I was surprised to see so many presentations on IPv6 in the enterprise--many other IPv6 events that I've attended have included mostly presentations from service providers. Listening to presentations on enterprise IPv6 was refreshing.

Shannon McFarland of Cisco presented "Enterprise Internet Edge Design for IPv6." He explained how many of Cisco's enterprise customers are enabling their Internet edge as the first step in deploying IPv6. Enabling the edge involves configuring IPv6 routing on the Internet edge router, obtaining IPv6 service from a provider and turning on IPv6 on the Border Gateway Protocol sessions to the service provider router. The advantage of this approach is it's a business continuity play: You can decouple your external services and the risk of IPv4 address exhaustion. In addition, this IPv6 deployment strategy allows you to take a slower approach to overall IPv6 deployment.

Who knew enterprise IPv6 could be so entertaining? Tom Coffeen of Infoblox told the audience about "IPv6 Adoption in the Enterprise," in which he included references to sci-fi favorites such as Star Trek, A Clockwork Orange and Alien. Joking aside, I found several aspects of Tom's speech to be very interesting. He pointed to Infoblox polling data for the question, "What is your organization's current plan for dealing with IPv6?" A whopping 26% of respondents had no plan for IPv6; another 5% planned to "ignore IPv6 and do nothing." That almost a third of respondents don't see any urgency for IPv6 isn't surprising, as these companies are often very conservative and risk-averse. I wonder if enterprises will be surprised at the costs of being late to the IPv6 game.

Coffeen also described a concept he called "the enterprise IPv6 death spiral." Companies that wait on an ideal business case don't dedicate resources to IPv6. For their engineering staffs, learning about IPv6 without hands-on practice has limited benefits. Without training and operational experience, these engineers are less likely to promote IPv6 deployment within their companies. IPv6 fails to gain traction in these organizations, and the spiral continues.

Several government employees and contractors spoke about IPv6 in the federal arena. One pointed out that many of the lessons learned in government deployments apply to enterprise IPv6 deployments. I enjoyed Dale Geesey's talk on "U.S. Government IPv6 Adoption Synopsis." Geesey, chief operating officer of Auspex Technologies, discussed how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will disable IPv4 in 2015--a startling contrast from the federal government's aggressive IPv6 deployment and the more gradual approach taken by enterprises.

My speech at the summit, "Why Your Network Should Go IPv6 Only," applied to enterprises, among other organization types. I made the argument that the dual-stack approach to IPv6 deployment is no longer valid because IPv4 space is nearly exhausted. Deploying IPv6-only in some parts of your network reduces cost and complexity, and gives your staff experience with IPv6.

As enterprises continue to venture into the IPv6 world, I hope future conferences include talks from enterprises that have deployed IPv6. There's a lot of work to be done in this area, so spreading the word about your experiences gives back to the technical community in an important way.