I’ve blogged (a lot) about planning for the integration of IPv6 into your network, and I even threw in some thoughts about how to go about doing the integration.  Some of the procedures discussed in earlier posts included:

Equally important is the task of setting up a lab and (in our next post) developing a test plan.

Setting up a lab and later, developing a test plan, ensures a safe environment that the IPv6 integration team can use to develop and refine the architecture, analyze how devices and applications will work in the new network, and serve as a great education environment for everyone involved in the project.

Set-up and Organization

The ideal setup will mimic the “real world” and be as inclusive as possible.  Inclusive in this case means not only having all the network infrastructure devices in the lab (e.g. routers, switches, firewalls, etc), but also end systems with diverse operating systems and applications that are hosted in the operational network.

A full lab can be costly to setup and maintain, but it will provide an ideal environment where applications and infrastructure can be safely tested together.  This type of system testing provides good insights into how the system will behave when deployed operationally and will help avoid costly downtime.

If a full test lab is too costly to setup and maintain, then the lab can be scaled back to mimic the operational network infrastructure.  The primary use for a scaled-back environment is to ensure that the network infrastructure components work together properly.  This setup can also provide a system test lab, where applications and services can plug into the network test bed on an as-needed basis.

Importantly, the lab can be geographically dispersed.  It does not have to be concentrated in a single facility.  A tunnel overlay can be created to lash the test labs together.  This tunnel overlay will allow internal organizations that are interested in IPv6 to develop their own test beds.  When these organizations are ready to test on a larger scale, they can connect to the lab overlay network.  The lab tunnel overlay can be phased out as native IPv6 connectivity is provided.

Check out my next post where I discuss creating the IPv6 test plan.