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The case for IPv6: The business case, part 4

Should you invest in IPv6? Can IPv6 create a business advantage for you? How can you plan for IPv6 in order to make your transition a smooth and cost-effective one?

IPv6 - Is there a business case?

Now that you have seen that IPv6 is maturing and that it is used globally, even though on a small scale yet, compared to IPv4, your next question will be, why should I invest in it, is there a business case?

The business case

And what is your return on investment? Why should you invest in IPv6, while you have a running IPv4 network? In this area many heated discussions are going on and it is important to ask the right questions in order to get meaningful answers.

There are some facts to be noted:

  • IPv6 is inevitable in the long term
  • Supporting IPv6 will be a minimum requirement for hardware and application vendors soon
  • If you plan for IPv6 early you will save money and headaches

It can be compared to the situation where you had to introduce NAT (Network Address Translation) into your network in order to solve address limitation issues. What is the business case for a NAT? What is the business case for your whole IPv4-based infrastructure?

An infrastructure does not create a business case in itself. You need an infrastructure, in order to be able to use and run applications and services which create a business case for your company. So you have to invest in your infrastructure, because you need a well developed and state-of-the-art infrastructure as a foundation for efficient business processes. You cannot use the newest and coolest applications, if your server runs an old-fashioned version of the operating system. You cannot use the newest and coolest applications and services that build on the advanced features of IPv6, while you still run IPv4.

Our business processes and our private lives more and more depend on connectivity and mobility. The demand for mobility has been exploding in the last years and will continue to grow. Remember in the early eighties, when it was unimaginable, that soon we would have a computer at every desk? Remember in the early nineties, when it was unimaginable that soon everyone would have a cell phone? Today, we have to forbid kids to use their cell phones at school, because they exchange exam results by SMS (Short Message System). Remember in the early sixties, when it was unimaginable, that man would ever put his foot on the moon?

Evolution means that suddenly something is common, which was unimaginable a short time beforehand.

This is what is going to happen with IPv6. It feels new today, you cannot imagine migrating your network to IPv6 yet, but tomorrow you will use it naturally, just like your cell phone. And the advanced services, applications and enhanced mobility, all based on IPv6, will create your business advantage!

In a different perspective, IPv6 can be an enabler for new markets and services. You may be able to create business opportunities with new and innovative services, that use the advanced features of IPv6.

Obviously, while introducing IPv6 into a network, cost will initially rise. You will have to educate your IT staff for IPv6, you will have to build testbeds, that let you test IPv6 related issues and you will go through the cost of implementation.

When is it time for IPv6?

If the rest of the world is moving toward IPv6 and you remain on IPv4, the day comes, when you are not really connected anymore. You may loose customer base due to this or you may wish to have a business critical application, which would greatly enhance your business, but it only runs with IPv6.

We do not recommend organizations to go IPv6 tomorrow. What we recommend is, to start to include IPv6 into strategic planning and to start to build some expertise internally in order to be able to determine the right moment in time for you to move on. And most importantly, put IPv6 support as a minimum requirement on your hard- and software shopping list. This will preserve your investments.

The golden rule still applies: do not touch a running system. As long as your IPv4 infrastructure runs well and covers your current needs, let it run. But when your IPv4 infrastructure hits the limits for some reasons and you need to make substantial investments in extending or fixing it, consider IPv6 for a moment, before you spend money on IPv4. Maintaining and extending an IPv4 infrastructure will become more and more expensive. Especially, stop building or extending NATs. NATs are killers, and should be avoided. NAT was a strategy to avoid a crisis (address depletion) and should not be considered as long term strategy, as it does not solve the underlying problem, it's just a quick-fix. Any investment that you put into IPv6 will have a better protection, because it is an investment into the future Internet protocol. Also in the long term, maintaining and supporting an IPv6 infrastructure is less costly.

The question is not, whether you should consider IPv6. IPv6 is a due upgrade to the existing Internet protocol the question is, when is the right time for you?

No flag-day for IPv6!

Take the step by step approach, according to the above mentioned guidelines, and IPv6 will naturally be there the day you really need it.

The step by step approach is also the most cost effective one. It does not disrupt your current infrastructure, it lets you learn step by step and integrate the learnings into your strategy. And remember: the largest journey begins with the first step.

Some links for the status on vendor and application support:

There will be no flag-day for IPv6, like there was one for IPv4 in 1983. No chance we could switch our Internet to a new protocol over a weekend. So don't wait for the flag-day, and don't wait for the killer application.

IPv6 forum and task forces

Internet registries:

General IPv6 links:

For greater insight into IPv6 we recommend Silvia's latest publication, 'IPv6 Essentials' published by O'Reilly in late 2002.


Networking Silvia Hagen, owner and CEO of Sunny Connection AG is the author of a number of books. She regularly speaks at international conferences like Brainshare US and Europe, NUI Events, IPv6 Summits and other technical conferences. Sunny Connection AG (www.sunny.ch) is a leading IT consulting and education company based in Zurich Switzerland. Our main expertise is in directory services integration and in network analysis and protocols like TCP/IP and IPv6. We have more than ten years of experience in consulting middle and large sized companies, mainly in the area of industry, banking and insurance.

This was last published in June 2004

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