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IPv6 Hitting Closer to Home. Are You Ready?

Follow these 3 steps for preparing your network for the new Internet protocol

On June 6, currently being referred to as World IPv6 Day, several of the world’s largest ISPs and websites will permanently enable IPv6 —the next-generation Internet. With the explosive growth of Internet-enabled devices, the batch of IPv4 addresses that allows those devices to access the Internet have run out. The new Internet protocol, IPv6, provides a greater number of addresses to support more people, more companies, and more devices on the Internet. Consider this: By 2016, 39 percent of all global mobile devices could be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network—that’s more than 4 billion devices.

Your current network running IPv4-based devices won’t be obsolete for some time. However, if you haven’t already started making plans for the transition to IPv6, you should. The first step you should take is determining how and when to transition to the new Internet protocol based on your business needs. For example, if you do business with others who are already on an IPv6 network, you may decide to migrate sooner rather than later.

Once you’ve made that decision, you can follow these steps for preparing your network for IPv6.

  1. Assess your network hardware. Create an inventory of the IPv6-enabled equipment you already have on your network, then identify the IPv4 equipment you’ll need to replace. Many vendors, including Cisco, have been enabling their devices for IPv6 for a few years. There’s a good chance that any equipment you’ve bought in the last couple of years already supports IPv6.
  2. Create a software inventory. Catalog the software your company currently runs, including operating systems and applications. Many current OSes are already IPv6-enabled and have that functionality turned on by default. Because IPv6 impacts every aspect of your network, you need to know whether you’re running software that’s handling IPv6 traffic. Also, keep in mind that you may have some web-based applications that need updating to accommodate the new protocol.
  3. Develop a migration plan. The good news is that you can phase in IPv6 over time and as your budget allows. Create a migration plan that identifies what networking equipment will get replaced and when—and where; for example, at the core or at the edge of your network. Make sure any new products you plan to purchase are IPv6 ready. Also, you’ll likely want to implement dual-stack so your network can run IPv4 and IPv6 traffic simultaneously until your network is completely migrated to the new protocol.

Once you know what you have that isn’t already IPv6-enabled, what you need to replace, and how to proceed with the migration, you’re ready to transition to the new Internet protocol. If you don’t have the resources in-house, however, you can always call in outside help such as from a local Cisco reseller.

Has your company made the transition to IPv6 or are you in the midst of it? Share your experience!

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