It seems hard to believe but this summer marked a milestone. The Internet officially ran out of additional IP addresses. The explosion of network-aware devices caused an address exhaust a bit sooner than expected. Fortunately, this was foreseen years ago and with the current IPv4 space reaching exhaust, it is time to plan in some cases and execute in many others the migration to IPv6 and its virtually limitless supply of IP addresses.
While anticipated and ultimately necessary over the next few years for enterprises, service providers, devices, services and applications, the migration from IPv4 to IPv6, particularly for service providers is not a trivial undertaking. A recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) white paper, Alcatel-Lucent 7750 SR for Residential Services IPv6 Migration, reviews the various techniques, methods and standards in use today to facilitate the IPv4 to IPv6 migration. The primary focus in this effort is on business virtual private network (VPN) and residential broadband deployments. Alcatel-Lucent is assisting network operators in the formulation of IPv6 deployment strategies to ensure operational and business objectives that are centered on innovation, continuity and expansion can become reality. The challenge is that while IPv6 is being widely deployed and accepted, particularly since in the United States it is a government mandate, IPv4 services will still be in demand for many years. To satisfy demand on both sides, as the paper notes, service providers will need to embrace services that support dual-stack IPv4/IPv6.
The Alcatel-Lucent 7750 SR already offers this capability. It enables consumers to access IPv4 and IPv6 servers for the entertainment, information and eCommerce solutions they want. The 7750 SR is a critical element within the Alcatel-Lucent High Leverage Network residential services delivery offering. In leveraging this solution, providers gain specific benefits, including:
- IPv6 transition and IPv4 continuity tools
- IPv6 transition mechanisms to support interoperability for both platforms
- Comprehensive IPv4, IPv6 and dual-stack capabilities to ensure full service routing features, optimal operational efficiency and a reduction in costs
Another Alcatel-Lucent recent posting, Migrating Routed Networks and Services to IPv6, provides additional insights and recommendations concerning the migration to IPv6. What both papers highlight is that if service providers believe they can deal with migration issues as they arise without having the proper plans and strategies in place they are significantly underestimating the impact on their networks.
This means focusing in on both the best way to introduce IPv6-based capabilities, as well as assuring interoperability with IPv4 features and functionality. As noted, this is not going to be easy. Legacy IPv4 services will have to be examined regarding their current integration attributes, the differences presented in IPv6 versus current implementations, the readiness of the existing network to accommodate new as well as legacy services that need to either standalone or be made interoperable, cost options, timing, future expansions as they relate to IPv6, and the education of the operational workforce and customers.
The last item cannot be overlooked. New skill sets are going to be required of IT professionals both inside service providers as well as enterprise IT shops. And, since changes in how users experience their applications and services will be noticeable making the changes understandable to customers will be critical. As iterated in the postings, this is not just about possible migration of some services, in order to satisfy customers service providers will also be tasked with determining the most suitable IPv4 continuity strategy, focused on the continuing operation of any services based on IPv4 and subscribers, as long as the strategy is viable. This approach demands such things as the:
- Assessment of the possible impact of the network-based NAT functionality on processes and services already in place
- Implication of the IPv4 overload and the required procedures necessary within the operation to transition from IPv4.
And finally, all of this must be done with priorities placed on interoperability, scalability, performance and management requirements. The objective must be to ensure not just operational excellence of the network in terms of accessibility and reliability, but also in terms of pleasing customer based on their interest in various services and pleasing them by not impairing the customer experience as services migrate.
The IPv4 to IPv6 migration is not just about the Internet is adding more addresses. It is also about the necessitated reconfiguration of network elements, business process and service delivery and management capabilities. The migration may have a lot of moving parts, and certainly has its complications but it does not have to be painful. The best news is that the additional addresses and functionality set the stage for an acceleration of innovation as constraints on connectivity and interoperability disappear.
Edited by Peter Bernstein