IPv6 migration strategy: The very least enterprises should do

This Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) migration strategy for enterprises explains the preliminary steps businesses must make to ensure a successful IPv4 to IPv6 migration.

The IANA's IPv4 depletion is an IPv6 reality check for enterprises. While we can't ignore IPv6 for the next year or two, here's the least enterprises should look to for their IPv6 migration strategy. These preplanning steps will aid your organization toward a smooth IPv6 migration. Not convinced you need an IPv6 migration strategy? Then first read this Q&A with v6 expert Scott Hogg to figure out who needs IPv6 transitioning.

How should an enterprise network architect begin their IPv6 migration strategy?

First off, survey your equipment vendors and network service providers (wired and wireless) to understand their IPv6 plans and capabilities for existing equipment and planned upgrades. Many older routers and switches may support IPv6, but only in hardware, meaning that processing and forwarding IPv6 packets happen in slower multipurpose processors rather than in dedicated ASICs. It’s especially important to look at security and management applications to determine if they can support features including application optimization, performance monitoring, and attack prevention for IPv6 traffic. Create a report listing all of your current network infrastructure and their associated capabilities to support IPv6.

The next step in your IPv6 migration strategy should be to find out how your WAN and Internet service providers will support IPv6. Understand if they will provide end-to-end IPv6 tunnels or simply NAT between v4 and v6. Ask them how they will prioritize various classes of v6-based traffic (like voice or video traffic) across their v4-based services (like MPLS). And ask them how they plan to deal with strain on network routers, as the IPv4 address space further fragments at the same time that providers rapidly add IPv6 routes to their already-strained border edge routers.

Finally, work with developers to evaluate your application portfolio (both off the shelf and those developed in-house) for IPv6 compatibility. Educate your application developers and survey your outsourced application partners to understand IPv6 compatibility.

Once you’ve completed your analysis for an IPv6 migration strategy, it’s time to start planning for IPv6 implementation. Best practices and tips for success follow in our next tech tip: Avoiding IPv6 planning pitfalls.

This was first published in February 2011

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