Yanick Pouffary is a distinguished technologist & chief architect in the office of the CTO within HP Technology Services.
The rapid growth of online users and smart devices has contributed to the dwindling availability of addresses on Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), which is the first version of Internet Protocol that was widely used and necessary for hosting or communicating between two systems. In fact, Asia has already run out and North America is estimated to run out in early 2013. With the exhaustion of IPv4 looming, organizations must be prepared to support the next version of Internet Protocol - IPv6 - to stay competitive while communicating with new and existing customers operating on IPv6.
Many organizations, such as the U.S. government, have already begun the transition to IPv6, but there are countless others who have delayed the transition, due to concerns of network disruptions and security vulnerabilities. There are also several misconceptions that may be causing organizations to delay the transition including the idea that enterprises don’t need IPv6 because they have plenty of IPv4 addresses to conduct their business. Other myths include the notion that IPv4 will continue to work or network address translations will work just fine with no degradation of the quality of experience. Finally, there is the costly rumor that an entire IT infrastructure must be replaced. The reality is, transitioning to IPv6 offers organizations new IT and business opportunities.
To proactively get ahead of the transition, organizations must do proper planning and create a road map aligned to enterprise needs in order to grow with the technology. A holistic approach encompassing network, infrastructure, security and applications is required.
When starting the IPv6 transition, organizations must begin by evaluating the impact of the transition on their networks and IT environment to ensure business continuity. This requires a network readiness assessment and taking stock of any equipment that may already be IPv6 compatible, which would inevitably reduce cost. The next step is to identify logical entry points which show a high rate of return, such as a customer-facing website or business-to-business communications.
During the assessment, organizations will also want to identify potential security threats and address governance issues to ensure a smooth transition. Once an organization has a solid understanding of their network, they will need to do the same for their applications landscape. At this point, they are ready to develop a blueprint for design and implementation. Having a sound road map in place ensures success and enables organizations to quickly adapt.
Tips for Transitioning to IPv6
Here are a few key points to consider to make the switch to IPv6 as headache-free as possible:
- Start sooner rather than later. Begin the IPv6 journey quickly because it is a multi-year process and IPv4 addresses are rapidly dwindling.
- Establish a joint organization–IT task force. A successful switch needs buy-in from IT and the rest of the organization, as well as a clear understanding of everyone’s requirements to ensure a smooth transition.
- Understand the current environment—and the vision for the future. The IPv6 transformation is an opportunity to assess long-term organizational goals and determine how IPv6 will play a role.
- Plan for success. Map how technologies and business processes will support the transition to IPv6 over time to anticipate future needs.
- Leverage available services. Consider using consulting services to identify the optimal mechanisms, develop an IPv6 roadmap, and keep IT staff on track. Large IT vendors often have consulting services specifically designed to help clients execute a seamless transition to IPv6. Leveraging these services maximizes the effectiveness of an organization’s infrastructure and minimizes the risk of failing to connect with customers and partners.
- Bring IT staff up-to-speed. Properly trained staff is critical for an effective network.
- Don’t neglect security. While IPv6 offers improved security, IT still must ensure that there are no security threats to the network as IPv6 may unknowingly be deployed on their network.
- Incorporate IPv6 within the overall IT plan. Transitioning to IPv6 should be part of a broader IT road map leveraging regular technology refresh cycles.
While every organization has a different IPv6 transition path—based on their business or organizational plan, current IT infrastructure and goals —- each will benefit from the move to IPv6. By planning a transition to IPv6 early, enterprises will be able to minimize risk and cost, while embracing new growth opportunities.
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