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IPv6 in the Enterprise Data Center – Why is it important

September 11, 2012 - 4 Comments

Why is it important to start thinking about IPv6 across your entire network especially the data center?
Remember the term Y2K? The panic and haphazardness that was there to ensure every single device and application was compatible with Y2K? I see IPv6 as a similar situation except that there is no impending date forcing you to adopt it.

The more you wait, the more you lose time to develop IPv6 architecture with ease and peace of mind so that things are done right. And if not done way ahead of time, then you may end up doing things quickly to ensure the business is operational with a poorly designed and operated IPv6 network.

The Next Generation Data Center
IPv6 is becoming ever increasingly important and critical with the success and proliferation of mobile devices and other such applications that require enormous addressing needs. Lot of customers are taking the first step to enable IPv6 in their Internet edge, Campus and WAN edges, but very few customer are realizing the importance of enabling IPv6 inside their data centers.

I came across few such customers that are eager to enable IPv6 inside the data center but have not done any planning or design. Before coming to the reasons why they are eager, it is nevertheless important to say that IPv6 is going to be the protocol of the future.

As an Advanced Services Solutions Architect for the Data Center Practices team, one of my jobs is to deliver planning and designing workshop for customers who are looking into building their “next generation data center architecture”. The word Next Generation is enough to tell them that they should start not only planning and design but most importantly start assessing their data center devices and design to enable IPv6.

My Experience with Customers
In this post, I want to share my experience with customers who are seriously planning to take the next step of building the next generation data center, yet are completely skipping IPv6 in their planning phase. For most of these customers, replacing the Catalyst platform with the newer Nexus platform is extent of building the next generation data center in their minds.

Others want to use the newer, cooler features in the Nexus platform like vPC, VDC, OTV and FabricPath. Agreed, that these features and architectures would entitle their data centers to be called “next generation” but the actual plumbing of the new data Center is still the same: IPv4.

Change the Plumbing, its time
In my view, the real next generation architecture is where you enable the new plumbing system inside the data center and be ready to shift to the enormous and powerful protocol when the business needs you to.

Migrating or integrating IPv6 is not a job that will take few days or months. It will take serious planning and effort to ensure that the expertise in-house is familiar and comfortable with the gigantic protocol whose similarity with IPv4 ends at the first three letters used to represent both the protocols: IPv 😉

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  1. Good start Safwan. Are there any regulations that would force the customers to go IPv6?

    • Zahoor,
      Thanks for your question. The only regulation would be financial. Comapanies that are growing and expanding are paying a heavy price finding and buying IPv4 address from companies who are not growing and expanding and hence are selling their IPv4 address space. If IPv6 planning is done ahead of time, the expensive recycling of IPv4 could be avoided.

  2. Safwan, great conversation kick-off..

    So you say IPv4 to IPv6 migration is not just a small (couple of days) activity.

    Can you share a few of the challenges that a migration presents?

    • Dave,

      Thanks for asking this. The biggest challenge would be the “mindset”. I will be posting another post shortly that would talk about why the shift in mindset is important in dealing with IPv6. Second would obviously be the expertise. Unlike IPv4, IPv6 is a difficult to read and trouble shoot. Design, implementation and operational challenges would standout. Getting a good handle on design, implementation and operational expertise requires time and experience, especially in the data center environment where the variables are not only the network but also, applications, firewalls, loadbalancers, dns/dhcp etc..