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BLOG: Are you ready for the future?

Doug Hibberd | May 6, 2011
What IT managers need to know about IPv6 today.

The depletion of free IPv4 addresses took the media by storm over the last month as IANA officially issued its last /8s. People are scurrying around like Chicken Little proclaiming, "The sky is falling. The sky is falling!" Well take a deep breath, sit back and focus. This isn't the end of the world or a time to panic; it's a time to plan and prepare for the inevitable.

Whether you realise it or not, you probably already have IPv6 traffic on your network. Not learning how to effectively deploy, manage and secure this traffic would be a huge mistake.

While migration to IPv6 won't happen overnight, it's time for you to get your brain focused on all things related to it and come up with a plan to ensure that you are able to roll everything out smoothly.

Plan for tomorrow, today

First and foremost, you are going to need to educate yourself on the technology and get into full-blown learning mode. There are numerous classes and seminars that will get you ahead of the curve quickly; this will provide you with the basis you need to fully understand the technologies around IPv6 and how to manage them correctly. One of my favourite events is the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit.

Some people like to read books to learn, and a couple of good ones are IPv6 Essentials and IPv6 Security. In addition to reading, I find that I learn best when I just jump in and sort of force myself to swim. 

This is a good time to brush up on your fundamentals. I come across my fair share of network engineers who have been getting by without really understanding the underlying technologies. When you decide to start migrating to or adding IPv6 to your network, you really need to have the proper fundamentals first or you will be headed for some really tough times.

What do you have?

The next step is an essential one; you need to conduct an audit. You should have a good idea what you already have on the network, but it's always good to recheck your hardware and software on a regular basis. It's essential to know what you already have that is IPv6 compliant and what isn't. If you attempt to make the move straight over to IPv6 without evaluating, you are not only wasting your time, but could bring down your data centre like a house of cards. 

Once you complete the audit, you can begin upgrading. For me, I know that I learn best by doing, so you should roll up your sleeves and start working with what you have learned. We already know that we will be faced with a hybrid solution that will be a marriage of IPv4 and IPv6 within our own networks. You should set up test beds within your own network and start migrating a few things into a joint IPv4/IPv6 or "dual stack" solution. You spend some good quality time under the hood in a closed environment and it should become second nature in no time.


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