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Does your business network need an IPv6 transition? Who needs IPv6?

Is your company one that needs to start thinking about an IPv6 transition today? Who needs IPv6?

Is your company one that needs to start thinking about an IPv6 transition today? Who needs IPv6? How can you tell whether IPv4 address depletion will affect your organization? spoke with IPv6 expert Scott Hogg Rocky Mountain IPv6 Task Force chairman and IPv6 Security book author, to answer these questions. In this Q&A, you will learn the reasons why your business needs to migrate to IPv6.

Who needs IPv6? Are there business networks that should be looking to transition today? Is it more crucial for some companies to transition to IPv6 today than others?

Scott Hogg: Some organizations want to be on the cutting edge: Google, Comcast, Netflix, the U.S. Department of Defense, wireless communications or wireless phone companies—those are organizations that are on the leading edge.

If you're a user or a small or medium-sized business (SMB), let's say in the real-estate business, you may not have a need to be that much on the cutting edge. So for your organization, you'll have to decide the right time to transition. Organizations that aren't in a hurry don't have to be worried about it right now.

Service providers, large enterprises or extremely large content providers like want to have their content viewed by the widest possible audience. They want to be able to communicate with both protocols to everyone in the world. In about two years, there may be people who can only use IPv6 because they can no longer get an IPv4 address. Those companies would want to be more aggressive about their [IPv6] transition planning and should be actively working on their transition plans today.

Communications companies that enable end-to-end communication—telecom service providers—are the organizations that see IPv4 address depletion as a major issue because they need addresses to allocate to their customers. If they don't have addresses, they can't connect any more customers. Their shareholders, owners, executives and board of directors like to see growth. If you can't grow your business because you don't have enough addresses, it will limit the size of your company. That's a business case where a service provider should prepare for an IPv6 transition

How can an enterprise decide whether it should look into an IPv4 to IPv6 transition?

Hogg: They should look at the addresses they use and ask:

  • Are they using public IPv4 address space, or are they using private IPv4 address space?
  • Who are their customers? Are they coming from anywhere on the planet? Are those customers in locations, geographically or geopolitically, that don't have a lot of IPv4 addresses? [That] would make those customers early adopters of IPv6 technology.

If you had a business that did a lot with customers in Europe or Asia, those locations may only have IPv6 addresses in the next year or two, and you would want to be able to communicate with those organizations. 

Is there some sort of map that can tell you where IPv6 is being deployed globally?

Hogg: There is a system of allocating addresses to different geographies, because IPv6 addresses are allocated hierarchically. You can see which addresses have been allocated to which region on the planet, and you could look at the IPv6 Internet routing table and figure out where those addresses originated. It would be difficult to understand that for every one of your customers. You may not really see how many people are on the IPv6 Internet because the routing table is so much smaller than the IPv4 routing table because of the hierarchical nature of the addressing. But there are Internet resources that develop global IPv6 deployment statistics to tell you who uses IPv6. 

Are there other criteria to help decide whether your company needs to transition to IPv6?

Hogg: After you look at the IP address space you're using and who your customers are, you will then need to look at your business and ask:

  • Will this have an impact?
  • Do we have a need to transition sooner [rather than] later?
  • What are the costs associated with transitioning early versus being a late adopter?
  • What might it cost for us to migrate in terms of time?
  • Is there any equipment we have that runs only on IPv4?

Organizations should think about whether they should buy products that can communicate both IPv4 and IPv6 today, even though they won't have a need to enable both right now. If an organization were to buy a product today that communicated only with IPv4 but felt it would get six years of useful life out of that device or system, then that might prevent them from migrating to IPv6 in that six-year period.

So organizations might start to develop a policy that says we prefer products that can communicate with both protocols. By having that procurement strategy, they are placing their organization in an advantageous position. You wouldn't want to buy something that's only v4 and then realize you were stuck with it for 10 years, and it would limit your ability to transition to IPv6—that would be a problem.

Those are the important things companies should consider today: What addresses do you use? Who are you talking to? Might your customers have a shortage and transition earlier? You shouldn't buy any products that are v4-only today so you have the option of moving to IPv6 at some point. 

So one thing that IT managers can do right now is make sure the products they're buying at least have IPv6 capability?

Hogg: Yes, so they're not boxed in or put in a situation where they can't transition—that's a good [IPv6 transition] strategy.

⇒ Learn in this Q&A with Scott Hogg where to find IPv6 training and conference information

Looking for more IPv6 transition advice? Read part 1 of this Q&A to understand what IPv4 address depletion means to enterprises and Internet users and why the IPv6 transition needs to take place. Or follow up with IPv6 security authors Scott Hogg and Eric Vyncke on IPv6 network security threats to learn more.You can also listen to a podcast interview with Scott Hogg concerning IPv6 network security issues.

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