Mastering the IPv6 Transition
Change is often difficult, and transitioning your IPv4 network to IPv6 may be the most challenging project ever undertaken by your networking staff. The primary issue facing many CIOs and CTOs is whether or not the transition should even happen. After all, if an IPv4 network is working fine and there does not seem to be a rush by other organizations to migrate, then why change? It may seem easy to stay put with a working IPv4 network and not force a change — but, on the other hand, can you risk being behind in planning if your competitors start a mass movement toward IPv6 or your federal agency is required to implement IPv6 in a relatively short timeframe?
Fortunately the physical infrastructure the wires, connectors, cabinets and racks — are identical for both networking standards. A transition to IPv6 does not mean that you have to remove expensive fiber optic or twisted-pair cables, engineer new equipment storage rooms, or install new wall plates and jacks. At the application level, IPv6 is transparent to the human-machine interface, meaning that your employees and customers will continue to use their familiar applications as before.
Where IPv6 does have an impact are the middle layers — the addressing and routing mechanisms of your network. Once the transition is complete, all of the devices on your network will have new addresses. A fortunate fact about IPv6 is that it is backwards compatible with existing IPv4 installations. This means that you can run both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time on the same network while the migration is taking place.
So how should you go about transitioning to IPv6? What are the critical success factors? When should you start? The following "rules of thumb" were gleaned from dozens of organizations and agencies that have already transitioned to IPv6 and could save you significant time and money managing your own transition:
Fortunately, it will be a few years before IPv4 is obsolete, so the best approach is to time your transition to coincide with normal expansions and upgrades and to learn from those who have gone before you. Before you know it, your entire organization will be IPv6 end-to-end and you’ll be ready to take full advantage of all the new features that IPv6 brings to the Internet.
For more information on Best Practices for IPv6 Transition in the Federal Government, visit www.juniper.net/federal/ipv6.
Tom Kreidler, vice president of Juniper Federal Systems, Juniper Networks has more than 20 years of experience providing the government with information technology solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.