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IPv6: Is it finally time to migrate?

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CIOs have been hearing about the importance of adopting Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) for so long that some have become desensitized to the issue. Yet, with some parts of the world already running out of available IP addresses, can they continue to put off the migration to IPv6?

For over a decade we’ve heard warnings about how the world is using up the addressable space provided in Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). Unless users adopt IPv6 – the replacement for IPv4 that can support billions of new addresses – they could eventually find themselves unable to communicate with the outside world via the Internet.

To date many organizations have built quick workarounds or ignored the warnings altogether, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Today IPv4 continues to support the vast majority of global Internet traffic. Yet, the warnings persist and are, in fact, becoming increasingly dire. Why? We’re now approaching the much-heralded breaking point, fueled by growth of mobile adoption, increased pace of public cloud adoption and the proliferation of new end points with Internet connectivity – aka “The Internet of Things” – via embedded sensors in physical objects like cars, home appliances, watches, vending machines and elevators, to name a few. Asia and Europe are already running out of available IP addresses, a phenomenon that is expected to occur in the Americas within three years.

With this in mind, can organizations in the Americas – particularly those that are customer-facing – continue to ignore the calls to migrate to IPv6?

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We don’t really need to move with urgency on this now.
I have been hearing that we should adopt IPv6 for more than a decade now, and we have effectively worked around the real (or imagined) issues each time.
IPv6 incompatibility is already a problem in parts of the world. Soon it will be a problem in the Americas.
For internal, non-routable IP addresses, workarounds may suffice. But in the near future, when you need to communicate directly with somebody with IPv6 via the Internet, you may not be able to do it.

Nobody else is doing it, why should I?
When everyone else in my industry embraces IPv6, I will too. Until then, I’m not going to be the first person out of the gate on this.  

 

You are hardly the first to transition to IPv6.
Hardware and software vendors have been enabling these capabilities in their products for some time. Now, Internet providers and many corporations are starting to enable it, too.
Sure, IPv6 is coming, but there’s nothing I really need to do.
Won’t the packaged software vendors take care of this for me?
The configuration and the changes required for IPv6 are not inside packaged software.
What is important is how you implement the software package in your environment – and how you implement your control and configuration files against your compute and communications environments.
Enabling the entire enterprise is overkill.
I agree I have to handle it, but I don’t have to remediate the entire enterprise. I’m going to focus only on those parts that use routable addresses or that listen to external Internet addresses.

Making point fixes in intervals may actually require more time and resources, and be risker than remediating the entire enterprise.
Sure, for now you can remediate only the parts you deem critical or external. But do you know where those specific parts are in your IT ecosystem? And do you know how long it will take to find, remediate and test them?

 

My take

Bruce Short, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

“The time to begin migrating to IPv6 is now.”

Given that some CIOs have been hearing this same admonition for years and have generally ignored it without consequence, it is understandable that they might think that the IPv6 issue is a tempest in a teapot. Yes, many of us remember Y2K.

Yet, IPv6 is not a replay of Y2K. Some areas of the world have already run through their allotments of IPv4 addresses and are beginning to experience potentially costly Internet access challenges. Some predict that the Americas could begin experiencing this same phenomenon within the next 36 months. Moreover, the forces of globalization, the proliferation of cloud and mobile technologies, and the explosion of embedded sensors and connected objects have begun rendering familiar enterprise workarounds such as network address translation (NAT) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) ineffective. Given these considerations, three years may no longer seem like ample time to complete the transition to IPv6.

The good news is that hardware and software vendors have been working to make their products IPv6-compatible for many years now. More recently, Internet service providers have made major strides toward full IPv6 deployment, as have some corporations.

It is time for CIOs to consider looking beyond their historical biases about this issue and take steps to understand the specific risks associated with a continued reliance on IPv4, and what migrating to IPv6 will likely mean to their businesses today. They can also lay the groundwork for an effective migration by creating a current baseline of their IT environment and of the services the IT organization provides. IT is an ever-evolving environment. As such, if you don’t understand your current IT landscape, you may miss critical migration steps which could place future innovation at risk.

It is important for you to start planning for your migration to IPv6, if you haven’t already. The time to act is now – and this time we really mean it.

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1IPv4 Address Report available at http://www.potaroo.net/tools/ipv4/index.html, accessed March 12, 2013.

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