Migrating to IPv6

Richard Hyatt, co-founder and CTO, BlueCat Networks, explains the move from IPv4 to IPv6

Tags: BlueCat Networks (www.bluecatnetworks.com/)
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Migrating to IPv6 Richard Hyatt, Co-founder and CTO, BlueCat Networks, says organisations can reduce migration costs and minimise the business impact of the changeover.
By  Georgina Enzer Published  November 24, 2012

Richard Hyatt, co-founder and CTO, BlueCat Networks, explains the move from IPv4 to IPv6.

How can companies move from IPv4 to IPv6?
A successful IPv4 to IPv6 migration strategy can be broken into six manageable phases. BlueCat Networks leverage IP Address Management solutions and expertise to help customers take a structured approach to these phases:

Discover – Discover all IPv4 and IPv6 resources on your network to prepare for IPv6 and identify potential security gaps.

Plan – Plan your IPv6 environment based on a thorough understanding of your existing networks and IP addresses that are already in use.

Model – Create and model IPv6 blocks and networks including local and global unicast address space for optimal design. Add IPv6 hosts and define IPv4, IPv6 or dual addresses for each host.

Map – Map IPv6 networks and addresses to existing IPv4 devices and track dual-stacked IPv4/IPv6 hosts by DNS name, MAC address or device.

Implement – Deploy IPv6-enabled DNS hosts and create the necessary IPv6 AAAA records and corresponding NAPTR records alongside existing IPv4 DNS data.

Manage – Simplify the ongoing management of IPv6 and dual-stacked environments with a cohesive, business-centric view of your entire naming and addressing infrastructure (both IPv4/IPv6).

With this phased migration approach, organisations can reduce migration costs and minimise the business impact of the changeover. Organisations need to put the transition into perspective and think of IPv6 in business rather than technology terms.

All organisations will need to migrate to IPv6 but, at this point, most only need to look at external IPv6 connectivity. Some organisations will face limits on their internal IPv4 address space, but most will be fine for a few more years. Over the next few years, the next generation of ‘killer apps’ and network technologies, which will be built around IPv6, will create the demand and business case for migrating most internal networks to IPv6.

How does IPv4-6 migration hardware/software work?
While there are several different IPv4-IPv6 migration tools available, including tunneling and translation, most organisations will likely opt for a dual-stacked approach in which IPv4 and IPv6 are run simultaneously. The ability to run IPv4 and IPv6 within the same network means that there’s no need to move to IPv6 all at once – you can gradually migrate parts of your network as you go forward.

Dual-stacked IPv4/IPv6 networks will require a new approach to IP Address Management. In a dual-stacked environment, organisations will have difficulty managing their IP space with traditional manual methods like spreadsheets or database tools. These legacy methods lack the automation, integration and agility needed to effectively manage today’s dynamic and complex data center and cloud networks, much less accommodate IPv6.

With an enormous address pool and complex subnet structure, IPv6 simply cannot be tracked on a spreadsheet – finding a specific address in a seemingly endless list of IPv6 addresses in Excel would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Everyday tasks such as determining the next available network will become anything but trivial. In the short term, organisations looking to reduce costs for their external IPv6 connectivity should look at DNS64/NAT64. Although not as flexible as dual-stack, network address translation (NAT) allows you to keep your IPv4 infrastructure by NATing the traffic in front of it.

This works by mapping existing DNS IPv4 Address (A) records to IPv6 (AAAA) records and NATing the IPv6 traffic to IPv4. This method works well for most environments, although scalability may become an issue as organisations continue to add more devices to our networks. Another potential with NAT is logging and tracking source addresses, since they are not visible to IPv4 applications. Some vendors have workarounds for this, but it does add an extra wrinkle to the process.

IP Address Management (IPAM) solutions automate common administrative tasks and insulate network administrators from the complexity of defining, allocating and managing IPv6 blocks, dual-stacked networks and addresses. Without IPAM, organisations will be unable to cope with the added complexity. An IP Address Management (IPAM) solution offers capabilities for controlling, automating and managing IPv6 address space and name space.

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