Qwest's approach to IPv6 migration

With IPv6 on the horizon, Qwest is now offering business and government customers both public and private IPv6 addresses as part of its iQ Networking service package.

Essentially, Qwest customers can get either a native IPv6 approach that will build IPv6 capabilities into new sites and devices that the company incorporates or a dual-stack approach that will support both IPv4 and IPv6. IPv6 is a next-generation Internet layer protocol that was designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to solve the problem of IP address depletion under the current Internet layer protocol, IPv4. While IPv4 has a fixed limit of around 4 billion IP addresses, IPv6 will have exponentially more, on the magnitude of around 340 billion billion billion billion (3.4×1038).

IPv6: D-Day coming for ISPs

The trouble that IPv6 advocates and ISPs have run into so far, however, is that many of the ISPs' enterprise customers don't see the logic in investing time and money in IPv6 deployment during a recession where they have far more pressing and immediate needs. In this Q&A with Qwest CTO Pieter Poll, we ask him why businesses should still bother with IPv6 integration and what strategies they should use when making the switch.

Businesses have been reluctant to invest in IPv6, especially during a recession. How do you convince them that this is worth their time?

With any business, you have to think about the transition to IPv6 in two main areas: with your online public and with your internal operations. In terms of your online public content, the issue you're going to run into is that there will be folks fairly soon who can't access online content such as your Web site if you don't make IPv6 available to them. This will happen first in international environments. If you are a U.S.-based business and it's important that people in other countries can access you, then you really have to think about investing in IPv6 capabilities.

On the other side, you have to look at your routers, your security arrangements, your firewalls, and your back office systems to make sure that they all work in IPv6 environments. We're finding that folks in particular are having trouble with their back office systems because they've really embedded IPv4 deep into those systems. To get all this done, you're going to have to invest in infrastructure that's either dedicated or dual stack, you will have to establish a relationship with a carrier that can get IPv6 to you and you'll have to be able to peer with other networks in IPv6 mode as well.

What are some of the unexpected surprises that businesses have run into when transitioning to IPv6 and how can the avoid those shocks?

As I mentioned earlier, the big one you really have to put a focus on is the back office systems. The other challenge is that you have to understand what you do as a business and where IPv6 fits in. Companies that have global IP networks, especially content providers, obviously need to be at the forefront of the transition to IPv6, for instance. On the other side, you have companies that rely primarily on private IP environments. They can more afford to sit back and wait before making the transition.

What equipment and infrastructure do businesses have to invest in to successfully make the switch to IPv6?

We encourage our customers to establish a readiness plan and to think not just about obvious things but about the need to think about how you internally handle network elements as well. You'll need to check your IPv6 capabilities around your routers and firewalls and go over what your routing plan is going to look like. Broadly speaking, though, first you're going to have to look at different carriers and what they can provide you as far as help for transitioning to IPv6. It's not as big an issue to take your infrastructure and make it aware to people in an IPv6 environment.

Read more about lans and wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

This story, "Qwest's approach to IPv6 migration" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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