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What effects will IPv6 have on managing network applications?

What effects will IPv6 have on managing network applications?

What effects will IPv6 have on managing network applications?
With IPv6 there are significant changes that improve network device management. First, the increase in IP addressing from 32 to 128 bits is accompanied by an increase in the structure and allocation of addresses. The IPv6 address is comprised of a global routing prefix, a subnet ID, and an Interface ID (the portion local to a link within a LAN). The global unique portion of the address space is distributed hierarchically according to the network infrastructure topology through IANA. This allows the global routing table for IPv6 to be small, avoiding some scaling issues common with BGP routing today.

Second, there are enough addresses in IPv6 to give perhaps every square inch on the planet Earth a unique IP address. While this enables virtually any device you can imagine to be on the Internet, it poses a potential nightmare for an administrator to manage all the address assignments. Fortunately, IPv6 includes a feature (made of numerous smaller features) called Autoconfiguration of Nodes. This is essentially a next generation replacement of DHCP and ARP that is available in all IPv6 networks and allows you to connect a new device to the network without even minimal configuration. It also makes it much simpler to re-address your network if you change ISP's (and are thus allocated a different global routing prefix), because all you have to do is change the configuration of your router and your entire network will re-acquire new addresses with the new prefix. This is a huge reduction in the network management burden.

With the increased features of IPv6 come some potential management issues. IPv6 provides native support for security, termed IPsec. Encryption may or may not include some of the header information depending on which mode is used to form the VPN, which can reduce the amount of active traffic management that can be applied to the flows between clients and servers. Managing the security policy between the endpoints (IKE) can be tricky as well if you need to implement that yourself; this is one of the main things an IPsec based VPN provides. Of course, IPsec can be strong but brittle in certain remote-access situations such as accessing a corporate network from a mobile device, further adding to the management burden by an IT department trying to provide such services.

Migrating from an existing IPv4 network to an IPv6 network need not be done in one big step, thanks to new technology that provides gateway services between each, such as the BIG-IP IPv6 gateway from F5 Networks. BIG-IP provides a full proxy for traffic between IPv4 and IPv6, allowing all traffic to be translated for consumption by either IPv4 or IPv6 end points. This allows organizations to stage their migration gradually as demand for IPv6 increases.

This was last published in January 2006

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