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Ensuring a Successful IPv6 Transition with OPNET
By Shawn Khazzam
Senior Business Development Manager, OPNET Technologies, Inc.

OPNET

Over the past few years, organizations have been anticipating the need to migrate their current IPv4 network infrastructure to IPv6. For many, the time has finally arrived. The availability of IPv4 32-bit network addresses is significantly constrained and, as a result, the US Office of Management and Budget has mandated that all government agencies be IPv6 compliant by June 2008. IPv6 offers an expanded IP address space, as well as integrated security and mobility, enhanced equipment auto-configuration, and many other useful features.

According to numerous industry analysts, migration to IPv6 is a major network transition that requires considerable planning. Errors could result in costly network outages, security gaps, and application performance problems. A few of the questions that need to be addressed when developing a strategy are:

  • Do existing network devices support IPv6? If not, can they be upgraded?
  • How will existing legacy applications perform over IPv6?
  • Will network capacity be adequate to support migration to IPv6?
  • How will operational integrity be maintained during the incremental migration?
  • How can network security and resiliency be ensured?

Careful planning is critical to ensuring a successful transition. Employing an incremental approach, the existing IPv4 network is sub-divided into smaller, more manageable portions. Each is transitioned separately to minimize risk to the overall network. This migration involves two phases:

Network Readiness Assessment: The existing network is analyzed to assess IPv6 readiness. This involves verifying equipment compatibility.

IPv6 Network Design: Various mechanisms exist to facilitate network migration, such as tunneling IPv6 traffic through an IPv4 backbone and dual-stack devices. The migration plan should leverage these types of capabilities.

Network design software can accelerate network migration and mitigate associated risks. Automated workflows provide important value to the users whose practical experience with IPv6 is necessarily limited. Software can validate equipment compatibility quickly and efficiently. OPNET software solutions support these requirements.

OPNET IT Guru Network Planner Facilitates IPv6 Migration
OPNET IT Guru Network Planner fills the gap between a sound migration strategy and a successful transition. Employing a broad scope of advanced analyses and high-fidelity modeling and simulation, it allows network operators to plan for growth, ensure network survivability, and successfully deploy new technologies such as IPv6.

OPNET IT Guru Network Planner leverages topology, device configuration, and traffic information from the operational network to create a realistic model of the production infrastructure. The virtual network model accurately represents the behavior of the entire network. Embedded in OPNET algorithms is expert knowledge about how network devices, protocols, applications, and systems interact. This intelligence enables users to quickly identify the root causes of problems and to predict the impact of changes before costly mistakes are made. OPNET IT Guru Network Planner advanced analytics encompass survivability analysis, configuration validation, capacity planning, VoIP readiness, traffic engineering, vulnerability assessment, and much more.

IPv6 Network Readiness Assessment
OPNET will be previewing innovative IPv6 migration features at the United States and Coalition IPv6 Summits in Reston VA, from March 27-29, 2007. These include the IPv6 Readiness Assessment, a systematic rules-based analysis of network device configurations to verify IPv6 readiness. The rules validate each device's compatibility with IPv6 features including operating system version, routing, QoS, multicast, and security. Users can leverage an integrated authoring environment to tailor the analyses to their own requirements. At the end of the assessment, a comprehensive report is created, identifying which devices are ill prepared and offering tips to ensure their compatibility.

Automated IPv6 Network Design
Another feature that will be previewed is an intuitive wizard that guides the user through a series of questions to determine an optimal migration strategy. Some of the steering questions include:

  • Which subnets and devices need to be migrated?
  • What types of tunnels need to be enabled on each subnet e.g., 6to4, 6PE, etc.?
  • Which IPv6-compatible routing protocol(s) should be deployed e.g., OSPFv3, RIPng, etc.?

A custom migration strategy is created on the fly by leveraging the configuration information collected from the operational network. The strategy can recommend a combination of capacity and configuration changes, equipment enhancements, and use of tunnels and dual-stacked devices to ensure that network performance is preserved after migration. The user can also make manual adjustments to the proposed configuration in the virtual network environment to determine their impact prior to deployment. The new network configuration undergoes a comprehensive survivability analysis to verify that backup strategies are set up correctly such that no one device or link failure compromises the resiliency of the overall network. As a final step, a non-intrusive vulnerability assessment can be conducted to ensure that security mechanisms have been correctly configured.

Summary
Federal deadlines for IPv6 compliance are quickly approaching – now is the time for transition. OPNET network analysis software plays a critical role in IPv6 migration. Through a variety of analytics, including network readiness assessment, automated network design, survivability analysis, configuration validation, and vulnerability assessment, OPNET IT Guru Network Planner mitigates the many IPv6 migration risks and brings organizations one step closer to a trouble-free and successful transition.

About OPNET Technologies, Inc.
Founded in 1986, OPNET Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:OPNT) is a leading provider of management software for networks and applications. For more information about OPNET and its products, visit www.opnet.com.