Tech Talk Live Blog

IPv6 – The Future Is Now

Roy Hoover

IPv6 is a replacement protocol for IPv4, which is the protocol used on the Internet, hence the name Internet Protocol. The Internet as we know it has always run a single layer 3 protocol, even though you may have run many different protocols on your local area network. Do you remember running AppleTalk, IPX, or some other vendor proprietary protocol?

In many networks, running multiple protocols simultaneously was the norm.  Each protocol had its own addressing and one had to make sure that any router purchase supported these protocol(s). They were fine running on your local network, but your Internet Service Provider would have nothing to do with them.

If you needed to communicate across the Internet with one of these protocols, you could translate them to IP with a gateway, proxy, or similar device or build an IP tunnel across the Internet to reach another island of your favorite protocol. Over time, applications dropped the requirement for non-IP protocols and these other protocols faded into history. Networks became simpler to design, install, and manage. IPv4 had won the protocol war.

Thirty plus years later, it is beginning to show its age and the time has come to move on. This will not be a “rip and replace” operation though; it will be a gradual transition. Internet Service Providers, operating systems, routers, and many devices already support IPv6. By enabling IPv6 in various parts of your network, one can begin using it immediately in the “Dual Stack” mode. Dual stack simply means that devices will have both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. This may sound a little daunting, but for those of us that remember running IP, AppleTalk, and IPX at the same time (Triple Stack?) this is no big deal.

The best part is that the Internet already runs IPv6, so there is no need to proxy or gateway your traffic once you get to the Internet, just send it on to the ISP. All the old translation techniques (gateway, proxy, and tunnel) still work in case you need to interface with something that is not IPv6 aware.

I am looking forward to adding IPv6 into my network. I am sure it will require many years of running a dual stack network, but someday IPv4 will be decommissioned on the network. I am sure that will be a sad day for some people. Perhaps a few individuals will still have applications running that “absolutely require” IPv4, but just as it was when AppleTalk was decommissioned on the WAN, some of the newer network managers will wonder why that old protocol was still running in the routers.

So, now is the time to take a deep breath and plunge into the future. Begin planning your deployment of IPv6 now. Start testing IPv6 devices and gain familiarity with the protocol. This is where the future is—lead on.

Please respond to one or both of these questions. What protocols have you run on networks that you have managed at any point in your career? IPv6 has been the hot new protocol for more than a decade, what year do you think you will implement it?

To learn more about IPv6, watch the complete Tech Talk Live session, First Steps into IPv6 presented by Michael Graham, Director of Technology at Hempfield School District, here.

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