Chief Architect, Distinguished Technologist and Strategist
Article by Yanick Pouffary
Depletion of IPv4 addresses is now a fact. But this isn’t just a technology problem. Enterprises need to understand how moving—or not moving—to IPv6 could affect their business.
You may have heard about the Internet running out of IP addresses. Well, it’s happening. Available addresses on IPv4, our current Internet protocol, are quickly diminishing, which means the Internet as we know it can no longer grow. However, the next generation Internet, IPv6, can provide a nearly unlimited pool of IP addresses. So the question is no longer if you should transition to IPv6, but when, and how does the transition―or a delay in transitioning―affect your business?
End user devices will tip the scales
Increasing Internet demographics, the proliferation of mobile devices, connectivity demands, the increasing use of sensors and connected appliances, virtualization, cloud computing…all of these factors have combined to deplete the available pool of IPv4 addresses.
While mitigation techniques exist to extend the life of IPv4, such as address translation or address sharing in which addresses are distributed to mobile devices on a temporary basis, the inevitable result is the degradation of the end-user experience, along with increasing network complexity and administration costs.
Because of the effect on end users, IPv4 address depletion is more than just a technology problem. “I always say to customers, do not do the transformation [to IPv6] for technology reasons alone,” says Yanick Pouffary, HP Distinguished Technologist, chief architect and IPv6 global leader. “You have to have a business angle. Technology transformation for the sake of technology alone is a recipe for failure. If you don’t pay attention to your business needs, you will fail.”
Some of the primary business issues you should be considering.
The Internet has become business critical
Demands for always-on and instant-on connectivity, reliability and security both among the consumer base and within the business world have made the Internet the lynchpin of our communications infrastructure. In that light, this is no time to be risking your connections or visibility online.
Some regions have already begun the transition
You may be located in a region where IPv4 address depletion is not yet a problem. But you may need to conduct business in regions that are converting to IPv6 out of immediate necessity, such as the Asia Pacific region, which has already distributed all of its allocated IPv4 addresses. This could even include some of your partners with whom you have regular business contact.
More devices are Internet-enabled (and IPv6 capable)
We’ve all heard about the explosion of mobile devices, and more of these continue to be released and purchased by eager consumers every day. But now, Internet accessibility is even extending to things like gaming consoles, televisions, e-readers, vehicles and even home appliances. As the IPv4 address depletion rate accelerates, devices are moving to IPv6. If your network is not enabled to accommodate those devices, you’ll be missing customer connections.
You could lose visibility on the Internet
As of the second World IPv6 event on June 6, 2012, a global collaborative effort to raise awareness and increase usage of IPv6, more than 3,000 website operators and 65 network operators permanently turned on IPv6 capabilities on their networks. This signifies that the momentum has begun.
The number of IPv4 addresses is not going to increase; this issue is not going to go away. And as the number of IPv6-compatible sites, operators and devices continues to increase, sites and networks that are not on the IPv6-based Internet will be less visible because they won’t be accessible. No business can afford that kind of obscurity.
IPv6 is not backwards compatible
Waiting to transition will only increase the cost of the inevitable. And it will make the transition more difficult because you’ll be doing it within a shorter timeframe to catch up with the competition. Devices still on the IPv4-based Internet will have trouble connecting and accessing content once the IPv6 transition truly gains momentum. This includes phones, printers, laptops, desktops and so on.
Luckily, most of these devices are already IPv6-ready and enabled. Those that are not can often be transitioned with a simple software upgrade. (This includes your servers, too, by the way.) Starting to plan for IPv6 now, which includes procurement planning updates, could save you money and lost business later on.
Benefits beyond more headroom
IPv6 solves the immediate problem of IP address depletion by providing 340 undecillion addresses (that’s 340 followed by 36 zeros, or 340 trillion trillion trillion); which is practically unlimited when it really comes down to it. But IPv6 also addresses a lot of other limitations inherent in IPv4. Some of the additional benefits include:
- Plug and play for management ease—Stateless auto-configuration allows new devices to be added to the network with no further action required by IT staff beyond plugging it in.
- Enhanced mobility—Seamless Internet connectivity allows mobile devices to have an IP address that is reachable anywhere.
- Built-in multicasting—High-bandwidth multimedia applications can run better, as well as automatic IP failover for replication servers.
- End-to-end connectivity—Network address translation (NAT) devices will no longer be needed, simplifying network administration.
- Higher performance—Simplified header processing supports more efficient packet handling.
- Enhanced security—Built-in IPsec support allows devices to authenticate remote nodes and encrypt communications with them.
What should enterprises be doing?
The bottom line is this: the transition to IPv6 will happen with or without you. However, transitioning over is not just about flipping on a switch; it is a multifaceted journey involving all areas of IT and business.
“This is why HP strongly recommends that enterprises make this transition now, when everybody else is going through it,” says Pouffary. “If you end up waking up to it later on, your competitors will have a strong advantage over you. That could put your enterprise in jeopardy. The good news,” continues Pouffary “Is that HP can help you through this transformation journey.”
The best place to start your journey is by attending the HP IPv6 Transformation Workshop offered by HP IPv6 Consulting Services. The workshop will help you understand and communicate the business ROI of the transformation, then start to build an overall transformation plan. Other services are available for enterprises at multiple stages in the IPv6 transition, ranging from readiness assessment services to architecture design to integration and deployment.
Expert chat: Why IPV6? Why now?
HP recently held an expert chat focused on IPv6 networking, and how companies can minimize the risks, costs, and complexities of transitioning to IPv6. Learn how HP can help you meet the challenges of today’s dual-protocol world and how to develop a plan for phased deployment that meets your specific needs. Register now.
Pouffary draws upon nearly three decades of experience in the development of networking products and technologies. As chief architect, Pouffary develops network strategic visions and networking technology roadmaps. As HP IPv6 worldwide global leader, Pouffary crafts HP’s IPv6 strategy. Pouffary represents HP network technology interests in multiple industry standards development organizations and consortia. To learn more about Yanick Pouffary, visit her profile on the Meet the Experts site here.
Pouffary is a founding member of the IPv6 Forum, an IPv6 forum fellow, North American IPv6 Task Force technology director and general chairperson for the IPv6 Logo Programs (Ready & Enabled & Education). Pouffary is a strategic adviser to government agencies to assist in the deployment of IPv6 around the globe. Pouffary is one of the distinguished recipients of the IPv6 Forum Internet Pioneer Award for her technology contributions to support the adoption and deployment of IPv6. In May 2009 Pouffary was appointed member of the United Nations Strategy Council of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development.
More information on IPv6:
- Presentation: IPv6 Connect world: the time is now
- Blog post: 5 practical reasons to plan your IPv6 transition early
- Blog post: Transitioning to IPv6 may not be as hard as you think (but beware these 3 myths)