The IPv6 Headache

The move from IPv4 to IPv6 is at the forefront of many enterprises’ strategies for 2012 and beyond.

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The IPv6 Headache
By  Georgina Enzer Published  June 19, 2012

The move from IPv4 to IPv6 is at the forefront of many enterprises’ strategies for 2012 and beyond. With the region having been assigned its last block of IPv4 addresses in the first quarter of 2011, companies across the Middle East need to take a close look at their existing network infrastructure and decide on a migration plan that will suit their requirements.

While global adoption of IPv6 is still a long way off, if companies decide to postpone their IPv6 adoption until they are forced to change, they will miss out on customers from countries in Asia and Europe, which have already run out of IPv4 addresses and are actively migrating to IPv6.

Unfortunately due to decisions made in the 1990s around IPv6, the new Internet Protocal version  is unable to talk to IPv4 addresses, so, rather like an English-only speaker trying to talk to an Arabic-only speaker, they cannot understand each other.

This means that networking vendors and telecoms providers are currently entering an awkward period, where they are facing differing requirements from different customers.

The reason this period is so awkward is that the only new globally unique unicast addresses you can get from your regional address registries are now IPv6 and regional address registries are becoming very protective of the few IPv4 blocks they have left.

However, the majority of the user devices connecting to the internet are IPv4, the majority of content accessible over the internet is only IPv4, and the vast majority of service provider connectivity remains IPv4 only.

Getting even basic connectivity to the IPv6 internet usually requires some form of IPv6-over-IPv4 tunneling, and the average user has no way to enable this.

Not only that, but although most modern operating systems are fully IPv6 capable, there are many that are not. There are also many types of enterprise network software that is likely to have issues with IPv6.

Service providers are now faced with implementing IPv6 for the few customers (in the region) who want it, while also running IPv4 and a translation system that can convert between the two, which is at best a temporary solution as more IPv6 users come on line and the translation system has to be scaled to burgeoning demand.

This means that for a considerable time service providers will need to run what is called a dual-stack system or a similar solution, which can run both IPv4 and IPv6.

However, dual-stacking has a fatal flaw; yes, the dual stacked device can speak equally to IPv4 devices, IPv6 devices, and other dual-stacked devices, and the transition can be driven by DNS, but, dual-stack means that everything an enterprise does will need both an IPv4 and IPv6 IP address, and since we are out of IPv4 addresses that is clearly not going to work, which begs the question, what now?

Luckily there are three other options to ease the IPv4 to IPv6 conversion strain, but each one is really only a temporary fix.

So, enterprises not only have to worry about their own network infrastructure, but they also have to worry about the service providers’ infrastructure.

If you are an enterprise in the Middle East region considering the IPv6 move, the best thing to do is ask your service provider whether they can support IPv6 and work with them to implement a solution that works for you and make sure you start the process soon or you will be left far, far behind.

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