How To Ensure Network Wellbeing While Moving To IPv6

The explosive growth of the Internet means that we need more addresses than IPv4 can provide. Luckily, IPv6 has a much larger address space, supporting a total of 2128 (about 3.4×1038) addresses. On top of that, IPv6 offers the ability to have longer IP addresses, which will prove beneficial for various web applications and provides an almost endless availability of addresses. This allows the possibility to assign a unique IP address not only to every device in a network but to each single service.

Not many people are using IPv6 just yet, even though it is supported by every major Operating System vendor and by many core network services. Also, the majority of network hardware manufacturers have IPv6 implementations, while smart device manufacturers have already developed products that leverage IPv6.

International IPv6 Day took place in June of 2011, and a number of the world’s biggest companies participated in the 24 hour trial, including; Facebook, Google, Bing, Mozilla, Yahoo and NASA. So far, so good: no major problems have been reported.

World IPv6 Launch Day Is Right Around the Corner

With World IPv6 Launch Day just around the corner on 6th June 2012, there are many things network administrators should be aware of in order to smoothly make the move. To be honest, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 won’t be easy. It presents a real challenge that will affect all areas of IT infrastructure. It is a change that will see widespread impact on all systems, requiring an upgrade of network gear and software.

Dealing With IPv4 Islands

IPv4 “islands” will probably exist for a very long time, as all corporate networks and private home networks are currently operating on IPv4, and there is no actual need to switch to IPv6 right now. However, new devices coming to offices and homes all support IPv6, therefore a parallel usage of both protocols will be the first step, followed by a natural transition to IPv6.

It will probably be quite organic, and therefore take several years to establish. We would need a catalyst to speed things up, similar to the uptake of broadband. Once there are applications for IPv6 and users see the real benefit of it for their everyday-life, they will accept and want it more quickly. In the very near future, we will have IPv6 in the WAN (Internet), connecting IPv4 networks in our homes and offices.

Monitor Your Network During the Transition

It’s vital to ensure your network’s well being, to make the transition to IPv6 as smooth as possible. Network monitoring solutions, that are equipped to support the next-gen Internet Protocol, enable IT administrators to monitor mixed network infrastructures with one tool. This drastically simplifies the monitoring process while making the transition.

In general, network monitoring is essential for businesses in order to ensure everyday operations continue to run smoothly especially during the IPv6 transition. It helps your business to stay healthy by avoiding outages, addressing bottlenecks before problems occur, and reducing costs by being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to addressing network hiccups.

IPv6 Will Makes Things Easier

The good news is that things will become easier once IPv6 is implemented. The new paradigm specifies that IP addresses will no longer be assigned to a device, but to a service. IPv6 addresses will be unique, so there will be no need for network address translation (NAT) anymore, and each Internet user can be identified and contacted directly via their personal IP address. Of course, networks can also still be configured in an “old-fashioned” way, not allowing identification of single users.

IPv6 Will Aid Security

Ultimately, IPv6 will simplify network administration and make networks more secure. With IPv6, you can choose an IP address that is either private (not reachable from the outside world, but only from the local network) or public (reachable from the outside world, e.g. via the Internet). Right now, permanent IP addresses may provoke privacy issues, as they allow detailed tracking. With IPv6 the decision is already made when choosing the IP address (either from the private or the public IP range). In the future, we will be able to easily determine whether or not an IP address is public. This transparency should add to better security.

Make a Slow Transition

I really do believe that the benefits of IPv6 outweigh the pain – and it is only a matter of time before we all need to make the move. There’s no fixed deadline, but smart companies should be turning their attention to IPv6 now, slowly making the transition so as to avoid a major disruption and the need to go through a steep learning curve in the future. And actually, what they’ll find is that many things become easier when IPv6 is implemented, such as VPNs and NATs.

Dirk Paessler is founder and CEO of Paessler AG, provider of the award-winning software PRTG Network Monitor. An expert in engineering, computer networks and software, Dirk has a track record in setting up highly successful Internet businesses in his native Germany, such as hotel.de and anwalt.de.