GUEST COLUMN: Regarding IPv6

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

by Alessandro Porro, VP of international sales, Ipswitch

One of the most recurrent topics in the context of IT conferences is the creation of the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). However, it is important to define what we understand by IPv6 when it comes time to specify its benefits and the basic operations to carry out if you want to migrate to this level of protocol.

In a simple definition, IPv6 is a protocol version designed to replace Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) - the edition currently implemented in the majority of devices accessing the internet. Although IPv6's emergence is due to structural needs, with the collapse of the existing IP addresses, its creation made way for the inclusion of innovations that today are interesting, and which at the same time open up a vast universe of possibilities to work on the net.

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The operational experience that designers acquired through IPv4 use enabled them to develop a new set of protocols significantly stronger and secure. The shift toward use of 128-bit addresses - which means space for 2,128 different IPs - allows each internet user and device to have a unique address, eliminating the need for translation between incompatible network addresses.

At the same time, the IPv6 design optimizes computer security issues, in that it implements additional capabilities that the previous version lacked. For example, IPv6 simplifies address assignments and network renumbering whenever the user decides to change internet service providers. Network security is also integrated into IPv6's architecture, allowing for encrypted operations and enhanced security. In addition, the IPv6 subnet's size has been standardized so that it provides an automatic mechanism to form IDs from host MAC addresses without requiring the ARP link protocols.

However, contrary to the simplified and trifling rumors in the market, it must be said that the corporate task of migrating from a previous version to IPv6 is not simple. On the contrary, various stages of planning are needed to enable the implementation of Protocol 6 and completely replace outdated models.

First, possible limitations in equipment and resources must be considered. After that, from the moment the IPv6 addresses to be assigned are obtained to the validation of network equipment, monitoring tools and operating system compatibility must also be taken into account. In addition, companies should review product guides and websites to ensure that everything is clearly explained regarding IPv6's application, while also checking the version used on the computers' operating system and validating it against what is required for the new version's implementation.

At this point it is clear that the preparation stages for implementing this change at the enterprise level are complex; it may take weeks or even months. Before even entering IPv6's three phases of deployment and effective implementation, each organization must know it is necessary to follow step-by-step instructions to prevent mistakes or economic losses.

Putting version 6 into operation requires a broad knowledge of the network, as well as its configuration and infrastructure. The tips out there can give us some initial insight, but each company has the task of defining an innovation plan and implementing it according to particular needs. If this happens, companies will be able to reap the protocol's many benefits, and to see the difference between the protocol's features and those of previous versions.

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