Who has, and who doesn't have, IPv6 Support

Summary:You may need IPv6, but does your operating system and SOHO networking devices support it?

First things first. If you work in a small office/home office (SOHO) or are just interested in IPv6 at home, you don't need to start switching over yet. Big businesses and large organizations are the ones that really need to get on the stick with IPv6. That said, I know many of you don't want to wait to get your feet wet in IPv6 so here's what's what with IPv6 support in common SOHO server and desktop operating systems and network devices.

Operating Systems and IPv6 Support:

There may be some operating system out there with picture perfect IPv6 support, but I haven't met it yet. Each has some quirks and some problems. As time goes by, more and more people insist on full-featured IPv6 support that will change. In the meantime though don't be surprised if you run into problems every now and again with IPv6 and say Windows 7. I'm not picking on Windows 7; every operating system will have some troubles until everyone is on board with IPv6.

Windows 7 and Vista both come with IPv6 already installed. Indeed, several of Windows 7's network features-DirectAccess and HomeGroup-depend on IPv6. XP users, however, have to expressly install IPv6.

On the Windows server side, you can install IPv6 on Windows Server 2003, but I don't recommend it. Microsoft does much better with IPv6 on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Linux has long had IPv6 support. To set it up properly, though, you'll need to get down and dirty with shell commands. Carla Schroder, a Linux and networking expert, has recently written a pair of quick IPv6 Linux guides: IPv6 Crash Course For Linux and Another IPv6 Crash Course For Linux: Real IPv6 Addresses, Routing, Name Services. With these you can get your basic Linux client and servers setup without tears. I expect the Linux distributors to provide GUI-based tools for essential IPv6 set-ups in the near future.

Apple already provides automated IPv6 support in Mac OS X. Under the hood, it uses the KAME open-source IPv6 stack, which also supports the BSD Unixes. To do more with the Mac OS X IPv6 support, check out the Ipv6INT page, Apple Mac OS X IPv6. As they note here, "The IPv6 documentation in Mac OS X is very sparse." On the Mac server sides, there are some grave omissions. For example, as far as I've been able to tell there's no support for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol version 6 (DHCPv6).

SOHO Routers and IPv6 Support

When you're talking serious network hardware from vendors such as Cisco and Juniper all recent equipment supports IPv6. When it comes to SOHO or consumer-grade switches, routers and Wi-Fi access points (AP)s it's a different story.

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The State of small Network Device IPv6 Support

The quickest way to see what supports IPv6, and what doesn't, is to search on the IPv6 Ready Logo Program Approved List. This searchable Web page, supported by the IPv6 Forum, uses a database of Ipv6-compliant equipment that's passed a testing program. Not every vendor uses their services or submits their hardware for testing. Still, it's the closest thing you'll find today to a one-stop guide to which devices have IPv6 support.

You should also keep in mind though that network vendors use firmware to update, and sometimes change, IPv6 support. For example, Linksys disabled 6to4--an IPv6-to-IPv4 tunneling feature that has some interoperability problems--in the Linksys E4200 Wireless-N Router Firmware Update 1.0.01. In other words, equipment with some or no IPv6 support may remove, change, or add it tomorrow with a firmware update.

Or not, as case may be. For example, some Linksys hardware, used to sort of support IPv6 with the unstable 6to4 under the unlikely option of "Vista Premium." One such example was the Linksys WRT610N, a dual 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi wireless router I've used myself. If you have such a device, update the firmware to drop 6to4. If it's still there and on, follow the advice on the WRT610N: Disable 6to4 page.

Today, Linksys does not offer any SOHO/consumer hardware that supports IPv6. Cisco tells me though that The Linksys E4200 we just launched and Linksys routers [the rest of the E series] that will be launched this year will support iPV6." This will be delivered via a free firmware update. I still don't know if older Linksys hardware will be retrofitted with real IPv6 support.

Netgear supports IPv6 in much of their equipment, but I haven't been able to find an easy way to find out which switch, router, or what have you supports IPv6 or not from their Web site. For now, the only thing I can do is recommend that you take a long, hard look at each prospective device's release notes.

With D-Link, you can at least do a search on IPv6 and get a product list. This network vendor currently supports a wireless router, the DIR-632, and half-a-dozen Gigabit switches.

Curiously, enough Apple's AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule support IPv6. The bad news is that they do it with 6by4 or, the smarter move, you can set IPv6 support up manually.

Buffalo Technology, like Netgear, also supports IPv6 on some of their equipment, but makes it even harder to find out which equipment supports it. Here, you'll actually need to dig into the user manuals to find out what's what. That said, the company has a series of routers--WZR-HP-G300NH, WHR-HP-G300N and WHR-HP-GN-that use the alternative DD-WRT firmware and these do offer some IPv6 support.

If you're technically adept, and your older equipment is supported by DD-WRT you can add IPv6 support yourself. Be sure to read the DD-WRT IPv6 guide first though and make sure your ISP supports IPv6.

To sum up, Windows and Linux both do a reasonable job of supporting IPv6. Mac OS X's support is less well documented and is a little shakier, but it's there too. The real pain-in-the-rump for someone who wants to try IPv6 in their home or small office is that not only does a lot of equipment still not support it, but the network hardware vendors usually make it darn hard to find out what does support IPv6.

Come on Linksys, Netgear, et. al. make it easy for us to buy your goods. Just tell us on a Web page what devices and firmware supports IPv6. It can't be that hard!

In the meantime, if you know of any specific hardware that does support IPv6, why not tell all of us about it in the comments? Thanks.

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Topics: Telcos, Networking

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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