Internet Protocol v4, used to assign Internet addresses, is running out of headroom, say experts. While exhaustion is not imminent, now's the time to prepare your clients for IPv6.
By Martin Sinderman
Spending any time educating your customers on the coming version of the Internet Protocol (IPv6), on tap to replace IPv4 as the convention for assigning Internet addresses? If you haven't--well, you have about two years left to help them make the necessary changes to their IT infrastructure that this new protocol will demand.
IPv4, the reigning protocol for assigning Internet addresses since the late 1970s, is running out of headroom. In a recent presentation at the INET regional conference in Kuala Lumpur, Internet Society (ISOC) Technology Program Manager Phil Roberts reported that sources project exhaustion of IANA's (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) pool of unallocated addresses by mid-2011; RIR's (Regional Internet Registries), meanwhile, are projected to run out in mid-2012.
Exhaustion of unused IPv4 addresses has the potential to make connecting new Web sites, servers, and mobile devices more costly and time-consuming, according to Roberts. "The IPv4 Internet won't go away, but it will stop growing," he says, adding, "IPv4-only solutions being deployed now will have increasingly limited connectivity to the network and to the world of end users."
IPv6's 128-bit address space (vs. IPv4's 32 bits) is what's needed to accommodate today's large--and growing--number of IP-driven devices, according to Yurie Rich, president and CEO of Poulsbo, Wash.-based Native6 Inc., a provider of IPv6 solutions, integration consulting, and educational services.
"IP is everywhere now. We see it in our computers, on our mobile phones, in our game boxes," says Rich, "and we even find it in the systems that run building environmental systems and pass data between orbiting satellites."
What Rich calls "a short, non-exhaustive list" of what channel partners should be doing right now to migrate/transition their customers to the new protocol includes:
- Get educated on IPv6. Understand what it is, how it works, and how it will impact your customers. Your entire organization should be able to talk intelligently about IPv6. Recognize this is not just a technical issue; it is a business issue as well!
- Know the IPv6 readiness of your products and services. Understand how the products and services you sell and support will function in an IPv6 world. Understand how your products and services are going to interact with the rest of the IT infrastructure, and how well that infrastructure supports IPv6.
- Get your clients to start planning. This begins by determining how the IPv6 transition will affect your clients' businesses. Are they just using IT for "normal" enterprise operations, or is IP-based networking part of how they generate their revenue or operate their manufacturing? Assess the entire IT infrastructure for IPv6 capability and generate a plan for integration.
- Hammer on the vendors. Clients should push their vendors to provide IT products that are IPv6-capable. Many channel partners are invaluable resources to their clients when it comes to designing architecture, ensuring interoperability, and interfacing with other channel partners and IT product/service vendors. Channel partners that have accomplished items 1 and 2 on this list should be savvy enough to help their clients articulate IPv6-related requirements to other vendors.
There's plenty of work left to do in migrating the world to IPv6. According to Roberts, enterprises now deploying IPv6 include Microsoft and Google, as well as a number of national research and education networks (NRENs). In addition, content providers such as Yahoo and Netflix are starting to deploy, with many Internet exchanges worldwide now supporting IPv6 peering.
At the same time, though, a 2008 study by Google estimated worldwide IPv6 penetration (among Google users) at less than 1 percent.
MARTIN SINDERMAN is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.