In the IT world, most people have heard of IPv6 by now. Many Internet-centric companies already have IPv6 connectivity and an IPv6 web presence. Many ISPs are set to start the roll-out of IPv6 to end-users this year. Outside of these companies, however, people seem to have little understanding about IPv6.
In my work as an IT Architect, I see many proposed solutions. Worryingly, it seems many companies are still designing IPv4 only networks to be deployed in 2012 and 2013 with no consideration of how they will provide IPv6 capability, both internally and for internet-facing services. Failing to provide IPv6 capability at the outset could result in a whole host if problems.
Deploying an IPv4-only network now could result in the requirement to re-design in less time than was originally planned for, introducing more cost and work. For companies whose web presence is core to their business, as IPv6-based connections to home users become the norm, loss of revenue could result. Most companies consider email an essential service nowadays. As more organisations switch to IPv6 there may be issues with mail routing. IPv4 addresses will become more expensive and less available in the near future, in fact this process has already started. Growing an IPv4 deployment may become increasingly expensive and difficult because of this.
This issue does not just affect Internet-facing services either. Although it is possible to run a mixed environment, this tends to work better if client PCs run native IPv6 stacks rather than doing translation at the network layer. This means reconfiguring many machines to support dual-stack working or switching to an IPv6 only network internally. All of the main operating systems can handle this fine, it’s embedded devices like network printers and IP ‘phones which may struggle without a firmware update. Many vendors of these type of devices seem to be seeing the IPv6 switchover as a method to force clients to upgrade to newer versions of these devices and hence are not offering firmware updates to provide IPv6 support.
In summary then, companies would do well to consider their roadmap to IPv6 capability sooner rather than later. Indeed, those companies which take this on board now could use this as a strategic edge over their competitors.