IPv6 as a protocol has been known for a while, but enterprises are beginning to understand the ways in which it can help them achieve their goals, improve efficiency and gain functionality that were hitherto unavailable.

When the IPv4 to IPv6 transition first took place, some Internet-scale companies enthusiastically adopted the technology. They built out their data centers as IPv6-only networks understanding the impending exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. Most other companies attempted to manage the transition by simply migrating from native IPv4 to a dual stack network for IPv6 compatibility. This, however, neither saved IPv4 addresses nor improved features and applications over IPv6.  The logical next step for those companies and indeed the industry, in general, is to implement entire campuses as IPv6-only networks. The advantages include avoiding the maintenance of two protocol stacks, reduced OPEX, and, chiefly, no more dependency on IPv4 address. The IPv6 network is cleaner, faster and more secure thanks to a protocol redesigned to embrace encryption, favor targeted multicast over expensive broadcast communication and remove variable length subnets from routing.

Cisco has been one of the early pioneers in this space. From an implementation and adoption standpoint, we have taken it upon ourselves to start building an IPv6-only campus to demonstrate to our customers not just the criticality of this technology but also how exactly to manage the transition seamlessly.

The Cisco Enterprise Network Engineering team, in collaboration with the Cisco IT team, took the lead in converting Building 23 (known internally as “The v6 Island”) in San Jose, California to an IPv6-only network. The building, serving over 500 employees with at least two devices per person, over 120 access points and 20 network devices, accessing nearly 20 IPv6 applications and three collaboration endpoints per device, went live with the transition shortly after the new year began. As committed as we are to innovation, we also sympathize with early adopters of emerging technologies. As a consequence, we turned lab rats, as it were, in building an IPv6 campus. The goal was to demonstrate how to navigate the growth pains of such a revolutionary transition with a clear and near upside.

This transition has been one of our coolest projects, and it is very exciting to have the opportunity to roll out the first-ever true IPv6-only building in the industry servicing the typical daily business traffic of a large enterprise. Despite this excitement, the changeover to a pure IPv6 facility has been herculean in terms of ensuring non-disruption of critical services. Cisco users interact daily with diverse Enterprise applications – many designed without IPv6 in mind – and they expect to get their jobs done from any platform, anywhere.  This meant network plumbing – writing a translator for domains that are still running on v4, customer-centric practices like engaging with multiple users and being proactive to enable a wide range of devices (we are proud proponents of BYOD). Despite these challenges the project was all wrapped up in three months and the results speak for themselves. The IPv6 user count has consistently been at 450+ users daily with traffic throughput measuring an average of 400 mbps.

Adoption of a new technology is difficult and most technologists wax eloquent about initial reluctance. As we strive to be adopters and advocates for IPv6 as the way of the future, we have successfully implemented our own solution to demonstrate what an IPv6-only building is capable of. As we gain momentum towards v6 enabled collaboration and mobile-based adoption, it is our hope that our v6 implementation acts as a lighthouse and guides you on your v6 journey.  Learn more about our IPv6 journey in this video. https://youtu.be/BRunKoc2hnc

Would love to hear about your IPv6 stories @aoswal1234.


Anand Oswal

No Longer with Cisco