IPv6 -- Are you ahead, behind, or completely off the map?

IPv6 has been one of the hottest topics of 2011. The heat around this subject was kindled with ICANN 's announcement that they'd depleted their IPv4 addresses by issuing their last two /8's but continued to gain momentum as organizations worldwide came to the realization that yes, they're actually going to have to deal with IPv6.

As a long time fan and advocate of IPv6 I'm glad to see it finally starting to gain some momentum. In a recent Network World survey, most enterprises said that they'll be on IPv6 by 2013. That's less than 18 months away folks. Thus far this year I've already spoken on this subject at four separate events and I'm heading to Florida on Wednesday for two more (to AFCEA and INCOSE). Each time I present on the subject the most common question I get from the audience is "How do I know if we're ahead, behind, or completely off the map with our IPv6 planning and implementation?" Well, that's a great question so let's explore it a bit.

First off, let's be clear that this isn't only a "networking" problem.  Network engineers, system administrators, application owners and developers, DBAs -- pretty much everyone in IT needs to start thinking about IPv6. So, when it comes to whether you're behind or not, it really depends as much on who you are as on what you've done.

Regardless of your role, by now you should've done an IPv6 readiness audit of all of your systems and documented the gaps. For network administrators this will include auditing firewalls, routers, switches, load balancers, network management systems and the like. For system administrators this will include auditing server operating systems and key infrastructure applications like DNS and e-mail. Application owners will likely need to audit each of their applications, both the transport layers as well as any user interfaces where IP addresses are entered and for DBAs any place where an IP address is referenced will need to be checked. This is by no means a complete list, but you get the picture.

If you've done all of the audits and started work to have IPv6 compatibility within your organization by 2013 then you're on track with most folks out there or maybe even a little bit ahead depending on where you are with the work. Many organizations already have portions of their networks and some of their applications on IPv6.

If you haven't started putting security measures in place for IPv6 on your network you are definitely behind. Many of the server and desktop operating systems that we deploy today have IPv6 enabled by default and you're leaving potential security holes open if you're not dealing with it. A friend of mine, Scott Hogg, has a great book on IPv6 Security that I highly recommend. 

You're probably wondering by now, "who's completely off the map?" Well, if you're out there saying that IPv6 isn't something that your organization needs to think about yet, you're pretty far off the map. Likewise, if you've put everything else on hold to go and convert your enterprise to IPv6 as quickly as possible, you may need to refocus your energy. All of our organizations have work to do and IPv6 is one of the many projects that we should be thinking about, but it's not an emergency yet. Start doing the audits. Start the migration planning. Most importantly - learn IPv6. 

What are you doing to prepare for IPv6? How far along is your organization? Is there a helpful checklist or audit that you can share? 

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Josh Stephens is Head Geek and VP of Technology at SolarWinds, an IT management software company based in Austin, Texas. He shares network management best practices on SolarWinds’ GeekSpeak and thwack. Follow Josh on Twitter@sw_headgeek and SolarWinds @solarwinds_inc.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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