IPv6 Planning – Where Do I Start?

May 29, 2012 - 4 Comments

World IPv6 Day is on June 6, 2012 and organizations everywhere will be permanently enabling IPv6 for their products and services. With the date fast approaching, you might be wondering: where do I start with my IPv6 transition?

Integrating IPv6 into an existing network may seem like a daunting task. Big tasks can create ‘analysis paralysis’ to the point where nothing gets done because the perception is that the task is too big to take on.  The key in this scenario is to not think about the task as one big one, but rather a series of small tasks that can be handled independently.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started with IPv6:

1.  Bring together a cross functional team: IPv6 integration touches all functions in an IT organization.  It encompasses network infrastructure, security infrastructure, data center, servers, clients, applications, etc.  Taken as a whole, the scope may seem vast and beyond the capability of an individual or a group to accomplish.  A key message here is that IPv6 integration is NOT a network-only project.  Yes, IPv6 is a transport protocol.  Yes, it is important at the network layer.  However, as a transport protocol, IPv6 touches just about everything, which is why it is critical in the early stages to get everyone involved.

This cross functional team should have representatives to serve as the voice for their IT group, coordinate integration activities within their function and between functions, and also champion IPv6 integration throughout their part of the organization.   IPv6 integration is a perfect opportunity to re-establish communications channels and partnerships between and among organizations that typically do not talk or work with each other.

2.  Ensure executive sponsorship: this aspect is sometimes overlooked but is vital to the overall success of the project. Having someone from the executive team who is an active participant in integration activities is important to the overall visibility and status of the project.  Active executive sponsorship reinforces the commitment of the organization as whole to IPv6 integration, and will help sustain the momentum and progress of the IPv6 integration project.

3.  Break into chunks: with the team assembled, it is now time to break the project down into manageable chunks that can independently be addressed.  If you look at the task as having to integrate IPv6 into 50,000 hosts running five different operating systems; 20,000 servers running 3,000 separate applications; 5,000 routers running 20 different versions of software and 10,000 switches running 30 different versions of software, the team will easily be overwhelmed by the magnitude!

Instead, break down the task into different components or places in the network such as core infrastructure, Internet edge, client edge access, data center, web based applications, etc.  It might also be worthwhile to analyze and prioritize where IPv6 integration has to happen first based on geography or business requirements.

The diagram below shows three potential approaches to breaking down the project.  The blue box shows a core-to-edge approach.  The orange box shows an edge-to-core approach.  The red box highlights an Internet edge approach.

ipv6 planning approachesCore-to-Edge Planning

The core-to-edge approach allows an organization to deal with the internal network infrastructure without having to deal with potential application and user issues.  The organization can gain experience in operating an IPv6 network and adapt their processes and procedures to accommodate the new protocol without the added pressure of having to deal with end user issues.

Edge-to-Core Planning

The edge-to-core approach is a bit more complex because it involves the end users and applications from the outset.  In this model a specific and limited set of applications and users is typically chosen for initial implementation phases.  This approach allows for some valuable experience to be gained and the lessons learned can be applied to the next series of users and applications.

Internet Edge Planning

Starting at the Internet edge allows an organization to offer IPv6 connectivity to Internet users that consume their services. The advantage for this model is that it allows for Internet users to connect to the organization via whatever transport is available, yet the organization does not necessarily have to do any IPv6 integration internally.  In this model, a translation layer is used to provide IPv6 to IPv4 address translation so that the backend services and applications do not have to be IPv6 enabled.  This model buys time for the organization to properly plan and prepare for IPv6 integration on the backend.

Keep in mind that the implementation and breakdown are not mutually exclusive.  It is OK to begin doing work in all these areas simultaneously if the resources are available.  Please take the time to review some of the IPv6 design documents that are available on cisco.com:

Breaking a large task down into a series of smaller ones (see my prior blog) can be more manageable and allows the work to be done in increments until the whole task is completed.  As the shampoo bottle states – lather, rinse and repeat – at some point you will find that you are done.

Are you ready to join the many organizations who are permanently enabling IPv6?


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  1. Thanks, Jim. That was a really helpful blog. The migration process is indeed a daunting task but the three approaches you have explained are good. I think I would suggest the Core-to-Edge migration approach to my company.

  2. I’ve been anticipating that IPv6 to be something similar to the Y2K work I did back in 1999. A lot of equipment upgrades and router configurations so on. Most my lab gear on my home network does not support IPv6, but I can’t upgrade it due to the lack of maintenance.

    • Monte,

      With looming predictions of IPv6 address depletion coming from the regional registries, you do get a Y2K like feel for the IPv6 integration problem. The good news is that there is not a specific date that things have to happen. There is no December 31st for IPv6 integration. It does not mean that you can continually push the integration out and assume that you will have time to deal with it later. Right now, you have time to go through the planning, design and test cycle for IPv6 integration. The longer you wait, the less time you end up having to do the integration. The challenge with waiting is that you end up doing a rushed implementation and can make temporary decisions to get things working that become permanent problems in the long run.

      One of the things that you can do today is start to assess your environment to see if what IPv6 features it does support. There are some resources available that can help you do this assessment. Please check out the the IPv6 Ready Logo (http://www.ipv6ready.org/), the USGv6 (http://www-x.antd.nist.gov/usgv6/index.html) programs. The RIPE-501 (http://www.ripe.net/ripe/docs/ripe-501) also has some guidelines for features that a vendor device should support. Since you did mention some home products, please check out the following URL for some of the IPv6 capabilities of our Linksys products – http://home.cisco.com/en-us/ipv6

      I will be posting a blog this week that talks a bit more about the whole assessment process.

      thank you for taking the time to comment.



  3. Thanks for a very helpful high level summary. Everybody needs to start prioritizing the activities you describe.