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IPv6 is here – what are you waiting for?

April 18, 2018 | Written by: EfficientIP | ,

We are running out of IPv4 addresses, thanks to the rapid expansion in mobile, with 5G and IoT connections. When you add the growth of the Asian market, there’s an imminent need for IPv6, with it’s near inexhaustible supply of addresses. What does this mean for enterprises? And how should they incorporate this new IP management transition and coexistence? With a smart IP Address Management (IPAM) solution of course!

The limitations of IPv4

Organizations are faced with the headache of the existing IPv4 addressing system and how it can be maintained given the limited number of addresses available. There have been attempts to solve the issue by using Network Address Translation (NAT) solutions, notably carrier grade NAT (CGN) and large scale NAT (LSN). While superficially attractive, they create other challenges such as security, reliability and management. They don’t wholly solve the limitation of IPv4 addresses as there’s still a need for a separate address. It’s also a real pain point for IT managers who have to handle two different types of IP allocation, as well as needing to spend more on the underlying architecture.

The consequential management efficiencies often result in duplication, either because there’s no effective process to monitor addresses being used, or because there’s a limited number of IP addresses and certain static IP addresses are being re-used. For example, a device could have been described as inactive as it hadn’t been used for a while and its IP address re-assigned, but suddenly it becomes active again.

Such is the shortage of IPv4 addresses, cloud service providers are charging a premium for their remaining inventory, while leaving IPv6 free from additional charges. The increasing shortage of IPv4 addresses is an issue that won’t go away, hence the emergence of IPv6.

IPv6 was ratified more than 20 years ago but it’s been a struggle to convince enterprises that the benefits outweigh the effort required to change. While IPv6 increases the number of IP addresses available, there’s an added complexity in managing them. Existing solutions that have been designed for IPv4 are not always adept at handling the newer technology. For example, not all network devices, routers and switches, are capable of using both versions of IP. In addition, there could be a need to switch servers too.

Companies are therefore searching for a way to manage IP addresses more effectively, and handling both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses in the same environment. This could involve isolating IPv4 compliant devices to make them work effectively, but in the long run, maintaining two systems will be expensive and given IPv4’s limited lifespan, there will be a need to retire the system. So, what’s the answer?

Smarter transition from IPv4 to IPv6 – IPAM and DNS/DHCP are key

IPv6 has hit the mainstream, and it’s here to stay. It has now been adopted by more than 20% of organizations worldwide, from AT&T (USA) to Jio (India) to Telefonica (Peru), and it’s growing. Take a look at a carrier like Swisscom and how its own network is already 67% IPv6 – they estimate that by 2024 their deployment of IPv4 will be negligible. Players such as Google and Facebook now deliver their content only using IPv6 in certain networks.

One of the key areas where IPv6 is going to prove invaluable is in avoiding the duplication of IP addresses. To take just one example, Verizon Wireless proactively switched to IPv6, because it discovered on its existing IPv4 network there were more than 70 internal instances of the same private address space. The resulting network inefficiency was costing the company a good deal of time and money.

This shows the importance of having a solution that can assure effective IP address management across both IPv4 and IPv6 address ranges. The benefits include cost savings due to more efficient routing and packet processing, and simplified network configuration, as address auto-configuration (address assignment) is built in to IPv6. Most of all, because the need for NAT has been obviated, organizations can achieve true peer-to-peer networking throughout.

Providing simplified, agile control of millions of IP addresses is where smart IP address management (IPAM) comes in. IPAM tools offer a host of features applicable to both IPv4 and IPv6, for example automated, policy-driven provisioning of IP address and automatic configuration of DNS/DHCP services – an important step towards zero touch networks – and comprehensive global visibility and control of address space across networks. In addition, the software can automate DNS configuration to ensure effective application routing, regardless of the IP address generation.

Amongst organizations transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6, universities are leading the charge. Take Leeds Beckett University, which looked into how it could support a growing number of mobile devices used by students and staff. Once it had decided that IPv6 was the way forward, it found a way to manage change effectively using an innovative IPAM solution, allowing IPv6 resources to be deployed progressively, safely and with no downtime.

The future’s bright – the future’s IPv6

The next few years are going to see more changes coming when companies realize their existing infrastructure will not be able to cope with customer demands. LinkedIn is already switching off IPv4 and deploying IPv6 in 2018 in order to reduce page download times. Getting the right IPAM solution in place will be an essential way forward to make best use of IPv6. It’s important to realize the availability of more addresses doesn’t necessarily solve all allocation problems, that’s why companies need to choose the best enforcement software.

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