Importance of IPv6 Readiness for Service Providers and Enterprises

This week’s NZNOG Conference featured a useful presentation on IPv6 Readiness from Skeeve Stevens of Sydney-based networking firm eIntellego.

eIntellego specialises in networking infrastructure audits and reports, of which IPv6 forms an important part. His presentation, titled ‘Preparing for the Inevitable’, stressed how best to prepare for the all-important transition to IPv6.

Important in the initial stages is conducting a full audit, including inventory of hardware and software, research and scope development. Deciding exactly what functionality is required and commissioning a project of purchasing upgrades is also desirable.

In terms of implementing IPv6 it is vital that an addressing plan be developed, as well as policies relating to DCHP, security and DNS. Any changes need to be implemented and tested thoroughly.

Stevens pointed out that there is still technology being rolled out that doesn’t support IPv6, and it is important to take account of every part of your network when auditing.

“With server infrastructure for example there is still a lot of older hardware being used, so absolutely everything needs to be looked at,” he said.

eIntellego’s reports focus on the IPv6 readiness of routing and switching infrastructure; security devices such as firewalls, IPS/IDS and AAA; server networking hardware and server storage networking; appliances such as load balancers and traffic shapers. Application, services and office support infrastruture including network peripherals is another focus.

eIntellego’s experience of IPv6 auditing and reporting has highlighted a range of positive and not-so positive issues.  Initial enthusiasm is great and equipment from common vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, HP, etc is easy to audit, said Stevens. But, less wonderful are continuing debates about how IPv6 should be done, and “nervous engineers” worried about security concerns and scrutiny by third parties.

“Getting the detail we need sometimes takes a long time. We’ve encountered situations where network engineers refuse to give us information, and with one customer it took 11 months to get their configs.”

About 90 percent of eItellego’s clients let them finish an IPv6 report, but some get nervous about their systems being investigated and can “get quite difficult”.

Only 55 percent of eIntellego clients who move to a phase 2 IPv6 Report complete phase 2 in a reasonable timeframe (less than 6-9 months) due to other priorities – management changes and withdrawal of funding were cited by Stevens as major reasons.

But, Stevens advice is simple; get the IPv6 message out as soon as possible. “IPv6 is here now. Involve your management sooner rather than later.”

“Enterprises need to accept that their architecture will change. Be specific with your vendors and be prepared to consider alternate vendors. Start an IPv6 committee involving your management, engineers, sales and R&D staff. And if you don’t do a report now then you should at least be playing with IPv6 in some capacity.”

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