Last month, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2015 North American IPv6 Summit. Several hundred IPv6 experts and networking professionals attended from across the country to discuss the IPv6 adoption, hear about the latest IPv6 research and learn what others are doing to prepare for the transition to IPv6.
To refresh, IPv6 is the next-generation Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides identification for computers on networks and allows computers to talk to each other. The existing Internet Protocol, IPv4, has a finite number of IP addresses, limiting the number of devices that can be given a new address. In fact, the free pool held by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was depleted in 2011 and the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) has less than 3.5 million IP addresses left, a supply so small it could be completely exhausted by June of this year. IPv6’s large number of new IP addresses make it a foundational building block for the future of the Internet, especially as increasingly more devices become connected as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
U.S. Government Should Lead
It’s not just that government agencies should be migrating to IPv6 themselves, it’s that they should be leading that charge given our history. Public Internet was born through the U.S. government, and as Internet leaders, we need to continue to be at the forefront of the Internet’s evolution. Currently, Belgium is leading the world in IPv6 capability with 49 percent adoption. By comparison, the United States is at 35 percent.
The U.S. government has issued several mandates and deadlines to facilitate the IPv6 migration among agencies. The most recent one in 2014 called for all government agencies provide IPv6 connectivity to their user community. However, despite the mandate deadlines, many government agencies are struggling to make the switch. Out of over 1,200 federal agency websites, less than 500 are IPv6 enabled. It’s time for the U.S. government to start leading this necessary transition.
Why Migrate Today?
Beyond simply providing more IP addresses, there are business benefits to transitioning for both private and public sector organizations. IPv6 will enable organizations to take advantage of numerous opportunities presented by IoT and the Internet of Everything (IoE) – the networked connection of people, devices, data and processes. For instance, future Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies need to be IPv6 enabled as new devices will automatically be IPv6 connected. Further, IPv6 will allow agencies to achieve value from future connections to help optimize business functions, support mobile workforces, improve security and enhance citizen services.
There will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices by 2020, which means migration is not an option – it’s a necessity given how few IPv4 addresses remain. If your organization is not IPv6 enabled, you won’t be able to connect natively with these new devices. In order improve network operations and processes in the future, private and public sector organizations will need to transition to IPv6.
So, why are some organizations and agencies putting off migrating? Simple – because change is scary. Organizations have been managing the legacy protocol for over 30 years, and there is uncertainty that comes with transitioning to something different. Also, many don’t fully understand the big picture benefits. By getting hung up on potential deployment challenges, IT managers and network engineers overlook the fact that their organizations won’t be able to leverage the power of IoE tomorrow unless they start transitioning to IPv6 today.
Create Your IPv6 Transition Plan
So what can government do to start leading the switch to IPv6? Below are five key steps to migrating to IPv6:
- Identify the business value and impact.
- Create a project team of IT professionals, technical business owners and an assigned project manager to manage progress and address any outstanding issues.
- Engage in assessment of equipment and assets for infrastructure readiness.
- Develop architectural solutions.
- Test, monitor and deploy IPv6.
As an industry leader in IP technology and pioneer of IPv6 technology since its beginning in 1996, Cisco is well positioned to assist government in this process from beginning to end. We have experts that can help your organization walk through each step above; from evaluating IPv6 readiness to offering deployment services, our IPv6 can expertise has helped organizations save time, money and resources. In addition, we have the widest range of platforms and features for IPv6 compared to any other vendor, which enables us to provide customized solutions sets to meet the needs of customers.
Ultimately, IPv6 is the global plan of record for a sustainable, scalable Internet, and public sector organizations need to migrate to continue improving operations and meet citizens’ needs. Click here to learn more about the IPv6 transition and how Cisco can help.