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Why should you deploy an IPv6 internal network now?

Tessa Parmenter

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is upon us, and while many enterprises are dragging their feet to transition IPv4

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to IPv6, Oracle is making the switch. Not only is the software vendor launching an external IPv6 network, it is deploying IPv6 internally, too.

Paul Zawacki, Oracle's senior network engineer, says businesses should deploy an IPv6 internal network in tandem with an external one to avoid headaches and extra costs.

Still, IPv6 experts like John Curran, the CEO of ARIN, say enterprises just need to turn IPv6 on their external-facing servers. While there is a clear business case for implementing IPv6 externally, deploying an IPv6 internal network gets harder to justify.

When should you consider building an IPv6 internal network?

"Every enterprise is going to have to decide for themselves when the time is right in deploying IPv6 internally. The arguments for deploying externally are pretty obvious: For connecting to your customers, for opening up new marketing opportunities. But I speak to a lot of people that struggle with the business case internally," Zawacki said.

Oracle had that business case, he said. The multinational company develops and markets business software and hardware IT systems. To meet the U.S. federal government IPv6 mandate, those products needed to be IPv6-ready.

There may be a disruptive event—a business event or a technology in your future that will force your hand—and if you're not prepared for that, you're going to be in a very bad spot.

Paul Zawacki, Senior Network Engineer at Oracle

"Our customers need IPv6 capabilities for the products that we offer," Zawacki said, but "in order to support those external-facing marketing opportunities, our development teams need to make sure that those products are compatible…. In order to test those services adequately we needed to activate IPv6 on our internal network."

Acquisitions can force an IPv6 internal network migration

Not every company has an IPv6 business case as clear as having to develop products that must be IPv6 compatible. However, there are other operational reasons for making an early transition to an IPv6 internal network. IPv6 is inevitable, and the sooner an enterprise gets started the more prepared it will be for some event that will force a migration internally.

"There may be a disruptive event—a business event or a technology in your future that will force your hand—and if you're not prepared for that, you're going to be in a very bad spot," he said. "It's certainly an era of mergers and acquisitions in the current business environment today in just about every industry. So if your company acquired another company that had already deployed IPv6 internally on their network… you're immediately behind the curve in trying to figure out how to support that."

Adopting the routing strategy and addressing plan used in the acquired company may not be the appropriate way to roll out IPv6 in your own network, he explained.

"I don't think a strategy should be to continue to look for the business case when you could get surprised by one of these disruptive business events…. I think a better strategy is to be prepared in case one of those disruptive events happens and you're ready to go in that point in time as needed," he said.

Before Oracle bought Sun Microsystems 18 months ago, the company had been working on IPv6 for more than five years. It wasn't until the acquisition that it discovered Sun was independently working on a very similarIPv6 migration strategy.

"We were fortunate enough to combine our teams and consolidate that strategy moving forward. It turned into  not only an implementation on our internal IT network, but we also started to bring up advertisements of external-facing services for our customer base. We're in the process currently at various levels of deploying both of those," Zawacki said.

Simultaneous external and internal IPv6 migration

Oracle has two network architecture teams: one dedicated to deploying IPv6 internally, the other externally. Some engineers work within both teams to ensure a smooth transition.

Zawacki, the lead engineer for Oracle's IPv6 internal network, said that creating commonalities between an IP addressing plan and routing strategy can save a company time: "A lot of that work could be done simultaneously with minimal additional effort if there is adequate cooperation within that organization."

Don't assume your service provider will help you with your IPv6 internal network

Enterprises cannot assume that their service providers can handle their IPv6 migration adequately, Zawacki said. Although a few Internet service providers (ISPs) have positioned themselves for this market, many of them use carrier-grade NAT. Although NAT in IPv4 has worked well for many organizations, particularly large ISPs, it has also caused a great deal of pain.

"I would say that relying on another organization and hoping that the quality of those carrier-grade NAT solutions is going to be adequate to meet your business requirements—[this] should not be a strategy. Each organization should take it on their own to figure out how to deploy themselves, without relying on what services or what quality may be in the services for an external entity to provide them," he said.


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