Biz moving to IPv6 but lower costs, support needed

Summary:Companies such as Cisco and Singapore Internet Exchange share their journeys in switching to new protocol but the effort and costs committed represents major reason why others avoid making the move.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Organizations such as Cisco Systems, Equinix and Singapore Internet Exchange are all gearing up for migration to IPv6 in time for the World IPv6 Launch day slated on Jun. 6,which involved everything from redesigning their backend infrastructure to assessing their systems' readiness. However, one industry player noted that the costs and effort in doing so is one key reason why more companies are not making the transition.

Cisco, for one, told ZDNet Asia that is had been preparing for the migration on Wednesday since the test run was conducted last year. Joshua Soh, managing director for Cisco Singapore and Brunei, pointed out that switching IPv6 on permanently demanded a certain level of production quality and this required a lengthy preparation time.

The first step was to work on its backend IT architecture and design, Soh revealed, adding that their primary goals were to leverage network infrastructure already in place to avoid spending on parallel networks, as well as to ensure production quality and ability to maintain overall service levels.

To meet these goals, the networking giant redesigned their data center based on the reverse proxy model, in which the proxy server retrieves resources from the server to deliver to a client before returning these resources to the original server.

It also used its Application Control Engine (ACE) load-balancing platform to configure incoming IPv6 sessions to be proxied to the IPv4 tier so that the network will be dual-stacked to include existing ISP (Internet service provider) connections, the managing director explained.

The Singapore Internet Exchange did likewise. According to Yeo See Kiat, its sales and marketing director, the organization enabled dual-stack networks on their servers for public-facing services, which would enable it to obtain IPv6 streams and turn on the service permanently.

"Meet in the middle" saves cost
Another company making a similar transition to the new Web protocol is Equinix. Its director of network engineering & operations for the Asia-Pacific office, Raphael Ho, told ZDNet Asia that the migration would require existing networks to be upgraded and expanded to support the additional bandwidth and power.

This is especially so for facilities such as the company's International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers where the volume of interconnection is consistently high, he added.

In order to facilitate the switch, the company used its IPv6 Exchange to simplify the process for its networks to enhance traffic within an IPv6 environment, Ho stated. The central switching capability also helped create a "unicast" peering virtual local area network (LAN).

This "meet in the middle" approach helped reduce costs as it enabled its servers to more efficiently establish IPv6 peering, he explained.

Assess systems' readiness
Cisco's Soh noted that after the redesigning of the data center is complete, the company performed an assessment to determine if existing devices in its demilitarized zone (DMZ) and datacenter networks were capable of supporting the new protocol. It also enhanced its network management systems to support network, devices and application monitoring over IPv6, he added.

At this late stage, the company is conducting system-level testing and quality assurance engineers are going about the functional and performance checks, the executive pointed out. Its last test will be a practice run in which it will switch on the IPv6 service for a few hours to make sure everything works fine, including the content delivery network and ISP services, he said.

Beyond the technical preparations, it also put together a training program to ensure employees, from the frontline to the network engineers, were equipped with knowledge of the new protocol and skills appropriate for their roles, the executive stated.

No impetus for change
The amount of time and costs reflected in these companies' migration efforts were cited as one of the main reasons why there are not more companies considering making the switch.

According to a statement issued by Tata Communications and India-based Center for Internet and Society on Wednesday, costs and infrastructure as well as having a minimum number of service providers and users utilizing the network were identified as the two main impediments for IPv6 adoption.

One the first obstacle, they said: "IPv6 platforms do not communicate easily with IPv4 networks. This idea of abandoning IPv4 and moving to a new protocol is not only redundant, it is also futile because IPv4 is already running the largest network in human history quite efficiently."

To make the transition more palatable, they believed "translators", or technologies able to "speak" in both protocols, are needed. However, these translators are still expensive and there is a need to divert more resources to make these technologies more affordable, the statement noted.

As for the second reason, both Tata and the Center for Internet and Society stated that as long as the deployment of IPv6 remains nascent, there will be no concentrated energy to bridge both protocol versions.

"We are going to need a systemic change among all stakeholders to make IPv6 a reality, toward a faster, safer and more robust Internet," they said.



Correction: This article incorrectly stated Singapore Internet Exchange as Singapore Exchange. The story has been updated. We apologize for the error.

Topics: Networking, Browser, Emerging Tech, Mobility

About

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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