The Inevitable Need to Migrate to IPv6 Persists – What’s Your Integration Strategy?

Doug Menifee, Director of Sales, Intelligent Site Management
Westell 

Even considering the rapid depletion of IPv4 addresses worldwide, and the fact that IPv6 has been around since 1999, there are still many companies who have yet to migrate to IPv6 technology. While IPv6 is a proven, finished technology, the sticking point to transitioning is a solid migration and integration strategy. Can you make it work without jeopardizing your current infrastructure visibility and management? If you answered “No,” you’re not alone.

What are IPv4 and IPv6?

  • IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) is the 4 revision of the Internet Protocol (IP) used to identify devices on a network through a unique addressing scheme.  It uses a 32-bit address scheme which allows over 4 billion endpoints to be direct connected to the public Internet.
  • IPv6 is the next-generation protocol that will ultimately replace IPv4.   Specifically, it is an evolutionary upgrade to IPv4 that will, in addition to several other enhancements, significantly increase the existing address pool from 32 to 128 bits.

smartcityIn short, the primary limitation of IPv4 is the number of addresses that are available to the world (4 billion); and IPv6 introduces an address space, 2^128 addresses, which will eliminate this issue for generations to come.

According to Internet Society, the organizer of World IPv6 Launch, the mobile industry is where IPv6 is most prevalent because connecting mobile devices requires lots of unique addresses.  Wireline networks are also actively getting more consistently involved with the migration. Internet Society reports that more than 46 percent of connections from AT&T’s wired broadband network are using the new protocol, and approximately one-third of the traffic comes from Comcast customers.[i]

On a global scale, Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) along with Google, as demonstrated on a jointly created world map, shows IPv6 capability ranges from 39 percent (highest rate) in Belgium to 0 percent in many developing countries. The US specifically ranks at just 17 percent, and very few other countries exceed 10 percent. [ii]

The ongoing transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is imminent, and crafting a comprehensive and proven IPv6 migration strategy is critical for all companies to maintain customer productivity, equipment visibility and service quality. Companies that delay their IPv6 migration plan are putting themselves at risk – because when IPv4 addresses are exhausted, websites with these addresses will no longer be accessible. What’s worse, this delay will surely bring about the worst possible scenario of service interruption and, potentially, lost revenue.

What IPv6 Migration Means for Carriers and Tower Operators

‘How will my IPv4 devices be handled in an IPv6 world?’

‘Do I have an existing migration path for these critical assets in the event that I exhaust my IPv4 address space?’

For carriers and tower operators specifically, migrating both internal and external networks to IPv6 is fundamental for their advancement. Both have a need to deploy devices that allow them to gain monitoring and management visibility to IPv6 devices, without losing access to their legacy IPv4 equipment.

In the past, as customer networks evolved and more endpoints were added to the edge of the network, network address translation (NAT) was used as the means to preserve IPv4 addresses.  By using NAT, customers were able to manage multiple IPv4 devices residing on a private IP network by way of a central proxy unit.  By doing so, services providers were able to maintain visibility to assets on the network edge while they continued to grow their footprint, without exhausting IPv4 addresses initially.  This solution worked beautifully, for a time, but the exponential growth of the core network infrastructure required that the IPv4 address assignments be reconsidered.

Consequently, the assets on the edge of the network took a backseat to the core network in terms of priority.  The end-result is that the service provider has to deal with the following problems before they are able to upgrade their network to IPv6:

  • There are a number of legacy devices that are non-upgradeable and as a result, will be stranded on the network.
  •  The cost of replacing existing IPv4 devices with IPv6 capable device can prove to be very costly.
  • The cost of upgrading IPv4 devices could take countless man hours and requires significant verification and testing

Bridging the Site Equipment Visibility Gap – The Solution to Help Successfully Migrate to IPv6

IPv4 address exhaustion will ultimately occur when the pool of unallocated IPv4 addresses has been completely depleted.  The good news is that this addressing shortage has been anticipated for nearly three decades thanks to the ongoing efforts to gain approval for IPv6.  In order to provide continued visibility to IPv4 devices, service providers simply need a solution that offers the following:

  • Centralized site management device that is able to provide an IPv6 presence between the northbound management system and the equipment at remote sites.
  • Net cost savings, which are achieved by eliminating the need to prematurely replace IPv4 equipment. Otherwise, individual device upgrades needed to support IPv6 could require truck-rolls (dispatch of a truck to move equipment) and thus, result in high operating expenses.

An effective site management solution would provide several benefits, such as regained visibility to IPv4 devices, cost savings (on IPv4 devices that are maintained), one truck-roll versus several per device, and centralized device access via a common device management platform.

Intelligent site management that offers effective protocol mediation is critical for successful IPv6 migration, and to ensure the continued success of the network.

Westell’s powerful Intelligent Site Management (ISM) solutions allow companies to gain a competitive advantage when it comes to the seamless control and operation of their network. Learn more at www.westell.com/solutions/intelligent-site-management/.

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