Is your business IPv6 ready?

Digital WorldJune 8th marks World IPv6 Day, an effort to spread awareness and encourage implementation of the new Internet Protocol (IP). If you just shrugged then you most certainly need to read on.

Anyone who uses the web will be affected by the new IP in one way or another. According to PEER 1 Hosting, perhaps the most significant impact for Internet users will be that IPv4-enabled websites will not be accessible to users connecting from IPv6 networks, and vice-versa.

Internet Protocol version 6 is a version of the IP that is designed to succeed IPv4. Since the late 1970s, IPv4 has been the standard and it’s the current foundation for most Internet communications. But the growth of the ’Net and number of devices connected to it has created a need for more addresses than IPv4 is capable of providing.

IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4, so websites that have not implemented an IPv6 strategy will eventually be left in the dark as more Internet Service Providers begin to provide IPv6 connectivity to their subscribers.

“Enterprises that have an online presence are mostly still on the sidelines, choosing to wait and see what transpires in the IPv6 world. For these types of organizations, it’s probably boiling down to a ‘if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality’, and choosing not to invest in IPv6 until they see a real need and hopefully find a solution in a box,” remarked Jag Bains, director of network operations, PEER 1 Hosting in Vancouver.  “They may be forced to scramble when it becomes apparent that they need to maintain presence in both the IPv4 and IPv6 Internet routing tables, to ensure global reachability. That kind of a scramble can unfortunately be costly and have severe implications on scale and future planning if not done correctly.”

Initial assessment stage requires evaluating the gear you already have to determine if it is IPv6 capable, Bains advised. In many cases, it may just be a matter of configuring the equipment to run IPv6.

PEER 1 Hosting is in the midst of preparing its network to run IPv4 and IPv6 concurrently on the same platform, a technique called ‘dual stacking’.  By taking this approach, the company said it will be able to provide native IPv4 and IPv6 support for all of its customers across the U.S., Canada and U.K.

IPv6 offers many design improvements over IPv4 such as advanced multicasting abilities, built in security features, improved packet header formats and support for auto-configuration. For businesses this means faster performance, more flexible network scalability, and a more secure Internet overall.

“A good percentage of our customers have been planning on how to move to IPv6 over the last two years,” remarked Wenceslao Lada, vice president of worldwide channels for Cisco‘s Borderless Networks Architecture. “The no. 1 concern for them is around security . . . they’d like to partner with channel partners with professional services that can analyze, design, and implement this new roadmap.”

To that end, Lada said Cisco has been actively preparing its channel community to be ready and in-turn to educate their customers on the challenges associated with the switch.

Meanwhile, Greg Michetti, president of solution provider Michetti Information Solutions (MIS) Inc. in Edmonton, said though the coming IPv6 transition isn’t new news he’s surprised there hasn’t been more chatter within the tech community about it.

“We don’t hear much about IPv6 from end-users and we rarely hear about it from the tech community either. It’s almost as if it’s a minor irritation that needs to be scratched,” he said. “I would’ve thought we’d have seen a little more attention being paid to this (by large IT vendors). Where there’s adversity there’s good opportunity and there’s good opportunity here.”

Is the importance of IPv6 transitioning comparable to that of Y2K? Michetti thinks so to a degree. But he added the IT community did such a fine job of preparing businesses and users for Y2K that an attitude prevailing suggesting IPv6 is “another scheme” and that nothing happened with Y2K, ergo nothing will happen now.

“There’s a little suspicion (coming from businesses). That said, it’s tough to explain it to them,” he continued. “Security and legacy equipment are the two biggest concerns.”

Michetti recommended managed service providers and other IT channel players to get up to speed on IPv6 if they have yet to do so.

“Explain to your customers what this really means to them, above all else, in cost,” he said. “When you start talking IPv6 the first thing that happens to the clients’ eyes is they glaze over. You’ve got to explain it to them and maybe give it to them in phases. It’s incumbent upon us as partners to educate our customers.”

Michelle Warren, principal, MW Research & Consulting in Toronto, said one of the biggest issues about IPv6 for IT departments and therefore for the channel to consider is that it isn’t backwards compatible with IPv4.

“For organizations looking to participate (in World IPv6 Day), they have to ensure that their network infrastructure can handle the challenges,” she said. “This is a bigger issue for companies who host their own infrastructure. For PEER 1, it is a key selling feature. They manage and implement the changes on behalf of their customers.

“Until the office switchover has been made, a duplicate tunnel solution is required, so that the information can transmit on both the IPv4 and IPv6 transmission channels.”

IT solution providers, MSPs, VARs, will have to inform their customers of this change, of the fact that the two aren’t compatible, and to design and implement a migration schedule. One of the big questions they will have to address is, ‘why bother?’

“That circles back to the seemingly infinite opportunities for adding devices, computers, and access points,” Warren said. “Companies may not be interested in the plan today, but they will be soon. Initiate the discussion so that you will be top-of-mind for when they’re ready.”

The global, 24-hour IPv6 trial, which includes many popular websites such as Facebook and Google, runs from 8 PM Eastern on June 8 until 8 PM Eastern on June 9.