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Gearing up for IPv6

With World IPv6 Day approaching, industry players advise how companies both large and small can prepare themselves for the newer Internet protocol, and reiterate most users will not be affected.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Journalist on

Happening on Jun. 8, the World IPv6 Day will see major Internet players serve content over IPv6 for 24 hours as a "test flight", according to the Internet Society (ISOC). What does being IPv6-ready mean for businesses and users?

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Miwa Fujii, senior IPv6 specialist at the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), pointed out that organizations have differing needs when it comes to IPv6. Generally speaking however, as part of gearing for IPv6, any business that uses the Internet needs to review its network activity to evaluate the effect of IPv6 deployment and understand how it can maintain connectivity in a mixed IPv4 and IPv6 environment.

From there, businesses can develop clear plans and timeframes for IPv6 deployment, he said, adding that large network operators and connectivity providers will most likely need significant planning and additional investments.

Smaller businesses, on the other hand, can look to service providers to help them in achieving IPv6 readiness, said Fujii. "This may be as simple as asking their ICT suppliers, [including] the Internet service providers (ISPs), datacenter and hardware and software providers, whether their services are IPv6-ready," he noted.

"IPv6 is quickly becoming a key requirement for business and business leaders must take the initiative and make inquires with suppliers about options."

J. Ramesh Babu, director of managed services at Cisco Systems Singapore, pointed that external help may be the way to go for enterprises to achieve IPv6 readiness. In an e-mail, Babu said "the best way" to ascertain whether a company is ready for the newer protocol is to engage a professional organization to conduct an IPv6 assessment exercise.

"There are organizations with consulting practices which can help companies evaluate their IPv6 readiness and help them plan their next steps," said Babu. "Alternatively, IT departments within the organization can set up a team to analyze the present state and suggest how to reach their desired state with step-wise plans."

He added that being IPv6-ready is not only about having the right hardware but involves an assessment of the relevant IT assets, including routers, switches, servers, end devices and software.

The networking vendor is preparing organizations for the June event through its World IPv6 Day--IPv6 transition online community, said Babu. According to him, organizations can also check if their Cisco equipment is IPv6-ready by submitting the model number via the community.

No worries for most users
While enterprises need to prepare for IPv6, users are mostly spared from the hassle, according to the industry players.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, a Google spokesperson said typical Google users do not need to do anything to prepare for IPv6 but the company will be working with network operators to support the transition. Come World IPv6 Day, Google will enable IPv6 on its main Web sites for 24 hours, he said.

To use IPv6, Google users do not need to enter any special Web address. If the users are on a network that is part of the Google over IPv6 program, they only need to type the original Google URL, such as www.google.com, to access the service over IPv6, the spokesperson explained.

That said, both the ISOC and Google estimated 0.05 percent of users may experience problems. The Google spokesperson said such "rare cases" of users experiencing connectivity problems are due to misconfigured or misbehaving home network devices.

Phil Roberts, technology program manager at ISOC and coordinator for World IPv6 Day, added in an e-mail that participating organizations are working with operating system manufacturers, home router vendors and ISPs to minimize the number of users affected on that day. These organizations are also collaborating to detect problems and offer suggested fixes before the trial.

According to APNIC's Fujii, users also should not have to worry about IPv4 exhaustion as it is the duty of their ISPs and content providers to ensure the same quality of service over IPv4 and IPv6.

To that end, it is likely that ISPs and Internet exchanges will face the greatest challenge when IPv4 addresses run out, he noted.

Singapore details IPv6 efforts
Over in Singapore, work to prepare the industry for IPv6 commenced several years ago. In an e-mail response to ZDNet Asia, a spokesperson from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said the country's ICT regulator formed an IPv6 Task Force in 2006 "to assist Singapore's transition from an IPv4 environment to an IPv4/IPv6 environment seamlessly, and to engage key stakeholders such as the ISPs, hardware and software vendors, businesses and institutes of higher learning and so on in the process".

In order to minimize the impact of IPv4 address exhaustion on the growth of new Internet business, IDA has been holding industry briefings since 2009 to "sensitize" stakeholders to the need to monitor the use of existing IPv4 address as well as to encourage active planning and adoption of IPv6 technologies, she added.

Aside from working with the private sector, IDA said work is underway to get key infrastructure networks such as the next-generation nationwide broadband network (NBN) and other government systems to be IPv6-ready.

IDA has also set up an industry working group to develop and standardize common terms of reference for IPv6 in what it calls the Singapore IPv6 Profile (PDF). The agency reiterated that it will work closely with the industry to keep ISPs and other stakeholders informed and prepared for IPv6.

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