IPv6 is nothing new, but as time has passed since its creation in 1998, interest in the protocol among IT professionals seems to have grown. Most IT professionals are intrigued, and some are already preparing to transition from IPv4 to IPv6. Today, vendors are producing hardware with dual-stack capabilities in order to make the switch from IPv4 to IPv6 as smooth as possible.
A lot may still be unknown about the future of the internet with IPv6, but one of the best ways to weather the transition is to arm yourself with knowledge about IPv6 transitions. Then when it’s time to transition, you’ll be prepared.
We surveyed IT professionals around the world at the end of 2015 about their knowledge of IPv6 and status of IPv6 deployment. One open-ended question we gave survey participants was “What do other IT professionals need to know about IPv6?”
We wanted to share their responses with you to help further educate you about IPv6.
1. Transitioning to IPv6 is inevitable
Whether you need to transition today or it’s possible to wait a couple of years, “It may not be urgent, but it is necessary and it makes life a lot easier.” A number of participants stressed that “the sooner you start, the less painful it will be.”
2. IPv6 doesn’t have to be scary
While the complexity of a transition will likely vary from business to business, “transitioning doesn't need to be as hard as you think it will be.” Internal and dual-stack transitions in particular should be fairly smooth, and vendors are working to help here.
3. The standard for IPv6 addresses is completely different
“You'd better be able to speak hexadecimal!”
IPv6 addresses are 128-bit hexadecimal numbers separated by colons. IPv4 addresses are 32-bit addresses written as four numbers separated by periods. “As IPV6 has a whole new different standard,” said on participant, “it will be needed to develop a new strategy to memorize the addresses.” Make sure your new IPv6 addresses are valid with our IPv6 test tool.
4. Ensure your hardware will support it
Do due diligence to check your hardware’s capabilities, especially any legacy equipment. “Many legacy devices do not support IPv6, such as building control systems and legacy equipment, and not all devices that claim to support IPv6 fully support IPv6 properly.”
5. New issues of security will exist with IPv6
Most participants agreed that IT professionals will need to amp up security in IPv6. On the one hand, as one survey participant observes, “IPv6 has been built from the ground up with security in mind. Many of the security features that have been duct-taped after the fact onto IPv4 as optional features are integrated into IPv6 as default requirements. IPv6 encrypts traffic and checks packet integrity to provide VPN-like protection for standard Internet traffic.”
But even though security features have been built in, you’ll still have to take measures to secure addresses. Previously, if your company was using NAT, it’s likely that you had one external-facing IP address, but now with IPv6, all addresses will be external, making it imperative to take steps to protect each one.
6. Research before you deploy IPv6
Many professionals emphasized the importance of education as the most important thing you can be doing now. Some things to be researching:
- Deployment internally and externally
- Migration methods
- Properly statusing devices
7. A transition plan is necessary
IPv6 is a major transition, and transitioning will go much more smoothly if you’ve done some work up front. “It isn’t something the network team can just “NAT” the company to, there needs to be a plan to migrate everything,” one person advised.
8. Learn the technicalities
Survey participants shared a lot of technical advice, including:
- “DNS is your friend” and “Be strong in DNS. It is still valid and used in IPv6 too.”
- “IPv6 is very chatty on your LAN when searching for an IPv6 gateway. Shut it down if you have a private network.”
- “Know some number assignment best practices that don't change every time there's an argument in a forum. For instance, numbering for point-to-point links is frequently confusing due to disagreement in the industry.
9. It’s a priority to IT, but not necessarily to other employees
Thus, you may have to educate in order to get buy-in from management and stakeholders. “People outside of our networking team have very little interest in pursuing full IPv6 deployment,” said one participant. Also—“it’s a fairly expensive proposition to transfer,” so budget accordingly.
10. Training is key for your team
As one participant stated, “I believe it is more than simply a network team issue to resolve—it is going to take the entire IT team to focus.” Network engineers and the rest of your IT staff should receive extensive training on how to “check, configure, and troubleshoot IPv6 in their domain of responsibility,” as one participant said. Don’t forget about your help desk and support as well.
11. Your environment will determine whether or not a transition to IPv6 is imminent
Yes, everyone will eventually need to be on IPv6, but if your vendor isn’t pushing you to transition, you may be fine for the present. And if you’re using NAT, you’re okay for now, as one survey participant pointed out: “If you have as many IP4 addresses as you need, NAT/PAT really take the pressure off any need to transition at this time.” Another noted “Good workarounds have been developed to reduce the urgency.”
On the other hand, many participants stressed a proactive approach to IPv6 versus reactive. “Better to be early than late,” one IT professional said. “IPv4 isn't going away any time soon, and dual stack is the new normal.”
Get the IPv6 survey report to learn how IT professionals are preparing for IPv6.