In-Depth

Microsoft MVP: How IT Pros Can Prepare for IPv6

IT professionals need to be getting their networks ready for Internet Protocol version 6. It's an imperative even though nothing much seemed to break after the World IPv6 Launch event took place on June 6 GMT. At that moment, various ISPs, Web services companies and cable service providers turned on IPv6 for about one percent of their traffic, and they left it on.

Disaster generally wasn't seen by participating organizations, such as U.S. government agencies, which described no problems with their networks after the launch. They've been readying their networks to meet a requirement to use IPv6 for public Web sites and e-mail by Sept. 30, 2012.

IT shops everywhere eventually will face having to upgrade DNS servers and routers to accommodate IPv6, but it's a protocol that currently isn't even being used natively by one percent of devices worldwide. So, why bother to fix something that isn't broken yet with IPv6?

RedmondMag.com asked IPv6 expert Edward Horley some basic questions about moving to IPv6 and why it's important for IT pros to act. Horley is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and serves as principal solutions architect at Groupware Technology. He's also the cochair of the California IPv6 Task Force and helps with the North American IPv6 Task Force.

In addition to reading Horley's advice below on IPv6, those attending Microsoft's upcoming TechEd events in June can catch him live. Horley will conduct "IPv6 Bootcamp" sessions at Microsoft TechEd North America on June 12 and at Microsoft TechEd Europe on June 27. For other events at TechEd, see this article overview.

The Internet Society, which sponsored the World IPv6 Launch, also lists educational resources on IPv6 here.

RedmondMag.com: Why should IT pros care about IPv6?
Horley: There are several reasons. The first would be depletion of IPv4, specifically the issues that the Asia Pacific region has today with the lack of IPv4 addresses. Depletion directly affects business continuity and operations. Second, it [IPv6] is on by default in Windows and has been since Vista and Windows Server 2008. Many companies have not proactively managed IPv6 but have it deployed without understanding the impact it might have on their environments. Worse, they don't understand the default behavior of the OS when it is dual stacked or has transition technologies enabled. Third, Apple's OS X and Linux both have IPv6 enabled by default now, too. So those who don't run Microsoft products who think this problem is exclusive to Microsoft -- guess what, you are part of the club, [and need to] get IPv6 deployed properly.

How much time does it take for an IT shop to prepare operations for IPv6?
It depends on how extensively the company plans on deploying IPv6. If you have the correct router on your Internet edge, you can use an IPv6-in-IPv4 tunnel to get up and working in minutes (using a service like tunnelbroker.net) and simply dual stack a Web service, DNS or mail server after that and be operational. This wouldn't take longer than a few hours to accomplish, but, more commonly, companies are planning their IPv6 deployments around regular infrastructure upgrade plans they have in place. They may also be doing them in conjunction with software or application upgrades. More typical deployments are several months for core services but it might take years to get IPv6 to the access edge depending on the use case and the operating system involved.

Are the steps to get there clear?
There are some great resources out there that go over specific steps on deploying IPv6. Shannon McFarland's book from Cisco Press on "IPv6 for Enterprise Networks" or Silvia Hagen's book from O'Reilly Press called "Planning for IPv6" are good places to start for technical folks. For business leaders in technology, Ciprian Popoviciu's book from Cisco Press titled, "Global IPv6 Strategies: From Business Analysis to Operational Planning," would be a good read. For the true network and systems geeks who have to understand the IPv6 protocol, Joseph Davies' "Understanding IPv6, Third Edition," from Microsoft Press, is a must read.

The steps are going to be different for every company, but, in general, you need to acquire IPv6 address space, get functional firewalls, routing and transition technologies in place depending on your needs and finally turn up IPv6 on servers and workstations, then test like crazy. It really isn't much different from doing a proper IPv4 deployment -- it's just now you don't have to think about NAT!

[Editor's note: Check out more IPv6 insights from Horley at his blog.]

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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