Migrating to IPv6
IPv6 is the new Internet Protocol. It replaces IPv4 and offers a number of benefits over the previous protocol. The main benefit is that it increases the number IP addresses that are available. In fact, it increases the number of available IP addresses significantly – from 4.3 billion to somewhere in the region of 340 undecillion (essentially infinite, at 340×10^36 IP addresses).
This is because IPv6 is 128 bits long compared to IPv4 which is 32 bits. This allows many more users and devices connect to and communicate over the internet.
Internet of Things (IoT)
One of the primary drivers for the development of IPv6 is the IoT. The IoT is still in its early stages but most experts predict it will lead to an explosion of previously unconnected devices and things getting internet connectivity. We are already seeing this in many industries and sectors, with new uses for IoT technology being developed constantly.
IPv6 makes this connectivity possible, plus it offers other benefits. This includes:
- Simplifies network configuration
- Makes routing and packet processing more efficient
- Supports multicast
- More secure
The issue of migrating to IPv6 is, therefore, on the agenda for most organizations. There are a number of tasks & areas of concern to be taken into consideration, in ensuring this migration goes smoothly and is configured optimally.
IPv6 Readiness Assessment
The starting point is to do an IPv6 readiness assessment. This involves analyzing the existing IT infrastructure in an organization and analyzing how IPv6 will impact on that infrastructure.
The readiness assessment should also look at the feasibility of switching to IPv6 as well as the training required for your in-house team. An IPv6 threat analysis
should also be part of the assessment. Knowledge of the existing IT infrastructure and knowledge of networking is, is therefore required.
IPv6 Architecture and Design
Only following the completion of the readiness assessment will it be possible to develop an effective plan for the upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6.
This plan should ensure there is no disruption of service during the upgrade. The readiness assessment will also identify potential governance and security issues which can be covered in the plan.
The security element of the IPv6 migration plan should also cover a number of additional key areas. This includes:
- Developing an IPv6 security policy
- Configuring existing IPv4 firewalls for IPv6
- Configuring new IPv6 firewalls
- Securing IPv6 core protocols, transition mechanisms, and applications
It is important to remember when considering the issue of security that, despite IPv6 offering significant security benefits, it is not a complete security solution. This particularly applies to the IoT.
For example, IPv6 uses Internet Security Protocol (IPsec) but it does not automatically apply, i.e. it is an option. There are also new security problems that IPv6 presents that do not apply to IPv4.
For example, it is harder to monitor an IPv6 network and identify malicious devices than it is to monitor an IPv4. All these security issues will have to be considered, understood, and planned for.
Once the plan is developed and agreed upon, comprehensive deployment, configuration, and testing will then be required for optimization. This will require IT knowledge, project management skills, and extensive knowledge of networking.
The deployment can be carried out in phases, i.e. moving from an IPv4 environment to an environment that is a combination of IPv4 and IPv6. Once the transitional system is stable, the full switch to IPv6 can be implemented.
IPv6 Transition Consulting
The challenges and potential complications that exist with an IPv6 transition mean many organizations will have to consider professional IPv6 transition consulting. This is particularly the case if the IT department lacks the networking, project management, or security skills required to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. This will be where Zero Latency can lend our strengths & experiences in supporting your business decisions on transiting to IPv6.