From its humble beginnings a few decades ago, the Internet has experienced explosive growth due to the rise in personal computers as well as other connected devices such as mobile phones and gaming consoles.
It forms an integral part of our daily lives and many of us can no longer imagine a world without email, search and online shopping.
However, due to such enormous growth, the Internet is now running out of the current version of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which are the numbers used to connect any Internet-enabled device to the network.
The current form of IP addresses, Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4 for short, is set to run out before the end of 2011, preventing further growth of the Internet as a lack of IP addresses means that no additional Internet-enabled devices will be able to join the network.
Realising the limits of IPv4, the Internet community developed IPv6, a new Internet Protocol that is longer than IPv4, therefore allowing for an increased number of addresses. In fact, IPv6 allows for a trillion trillion trillion addresses, which is more than enough for every blade of grass on the planet to have its own IP address.
By following the four steps below, you can ensure IPv6 deployment will run smoothly in your organisation.
Appoint a project manager and identify training needs
The project manager will be the go-to person for your company’s IPv6 deployment. The person chosen for this role must be familiar with IPv6, as well as the company’s systems. This will ensure that IPv6 deployment will be tailored to the company’s specific needs.
To help with this task, several organisations including the RIPE NCC provide a variety of training courses, from online education to face-to-face training.
Talk to your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Most businesses rely on an ISP for their connection to the Internet. If this is the case, your ability to adopt IPv6 will be dependent on the status of the ISP’s IPv6 deployment. Therefore it is important for project managers to understand what the ISP’s IPv6 plans are as well as any proposed timelines.
If your ISP does not provide IPv6 capabilities, you must either lay out an IPv6 plan of action together with the ISP, or consider switching to an ISP that will offer services over IPv6.
Evaluate your hardware
Most current office equipment is compatible with IPv6. However, you should investigate whether any legacy equipment is in use in your business, as these devices may not work with the next generation of IP addressing. The first step is to carry out an IT audit to identify which pieces of equipment need upgrading or even replacing.
It is recommended that you work directly with hardware vendors, as they will be able to advise you on how to make any necessary changes to ensure IPv6 compatibility.
For companies that rely mainly on legacy hardware, a significant amount of time and effort may be required to convert all elements of the IT infrastructure, so a staged deployment may be required.
Ensure software is configured to use IPv6
When purchasing any new operating systems, applications or any other software from a third party, you need to ensure that the technology is already IPv6 compatible or determine if an upgrade will be available soon.
You also need to remember to rewrite any of your own applications that store IP addresses to be IPv6 compatible.
While some early adopters have already deployed IPv6 in their networks, many organisations haven’t yet decided on an IPv6 adoption strategy. While the task ahead might seem daunting, it is important to consider that a carefully planned and strategically executed implementation is likely to be less costly and disruptive for the organisation than a last-minute, rushed roll-out.
Therefore, to remain competitive, all businesses should develop a comprehensive deployment plan for their networks in 2011 and beyond. Only by ensuring that all devices support IPv6, will we be able to protect the sustained growth of the global Internet economy.