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Sound the death knell for IPv4

James Hutchinson | April 5, 2011
2011 marks the death of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) but companies and ISPs are largely yet to deploy its successor, IPv6. But what is the state of the market and what is holding the new protocol back?

Mann oversaw deployment of the internal environment, carried out between November 2009 and February 2010, accomplished without a set budget from management. As a result, IT was prevented from conducting a 'rip and replace' project, instead prioritising IPv6 as part of the regular equipment refresh cycle.

"Management have accepted the need to move to IPv6 but there has been scepticism of the speed required... they lack the sense of urgency required to update all the servers, clients, back-end and security procedures in time," he says.

The current network, a dual stack environment, is now largely free of the teething problems initially witnessed from routing issues on Windows Vista and student-owned devices.

In an environment of 50,000 unique client devices and approximately a thousand servers, the project has been completed in a relatively short time but a complete IPv6 environment remains a lofty ambition.

Mann expects IPv6 traffic to grow steadily within the university as it continues rollout of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 across equipment throughout the year, as well as continued proliferation of IPv6 among student devices.

IT staff hope to take advantage of a fully native internal network to enable Microsoft DirectAccess, a feature of the software giant's modern operating systems-enabling authentication of remote access users without a virtual private network.

However, more importantly, quick acting has given staff the required knowledge to cope with wider IPv6 deployment and maintenance while the rest of the industry slowly catches up.

Take it easy, do it fast

For all the strain that IPv4 address exhaustion poses, a complete switch to IPv6 à la Monash may not be completely logical, at least in the short term.

"It's too big a task to take an IPv4-literate corporation and write a complete soup-to-nuts IPv6 plan that's going to be perfect the first go," Mann says. "The most important message is to start off a small IPv6 test project on something that's visible but not mission critical. It's vitally important to get some real IPv6 experience so you can see what it looks like."

For APNIC's Huston, it's a matter of working out the external, public-facing aspects before even worrying about the internal access network. The private addresses afforded to even large corporations are likely to afford some leeway for the five to six years required to garner a sufficient base of knowledge within the enterprise.

"Their internal networks are not as critical as long as they're not expanding... they can probably persist in doing that for some number of years without any particular problem," he says.

"There are some enterprises, particularly in the ISP arena, that need to do this quickly but in any other, you need to spend your money wisely and wait until you can see a fair deal of confidence that this is worth doing."


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