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IPv6: When…Not If

So IPv6 – now there’s a train wreck in slow motion that has been simultaneously fascinating and utterly boring.  Every six months the media checks back to whoop and holler about how now there are only 32 /8s remaining in the IPv4 address space!  We are running out of Internet!  Transition to IPv6 before it’s too late!  Run for your lives!

And then everyone goes back to sleep for another six months.

I’m sure every CIO and network operations manager has half an eye on the IPv6 situation. Wondering when it is supposed to become important to them.  If ever.  Unfortunately, it is important and it is simply hard to tell why.  Or what to do about it.

In that respect, I tend to think of IPv6 as “climate change for the Internet” – it affects everyone, it is happening whether you believe in it or not, what is actually happening is really hard to tell, and wild rumors are flying thick and heavy about what the impact will be.  At least we don’t have to deal with “IPv6 deniers”.  But otherwise, the implications are about the same.

One way or the other, everyone needs to make personal and organizational decisions about how to deal with it.  For most, the question is what and when.  For some, it is also why.  In the end, it is nearly impossible to predict the outcomes exactly – but none of the forecasts are pleasant.

The general wisdom arising from front-line groups like the Internet2 and NANOG communities is that the typical organization will need about 24 months to make an effective cut-over from IPv4 to whatever blend of IPv4 and IPv6 makes sense.  Two years.  That’s a pretty long time to execute a cut-over strategy.  Maybe too long insofar as it might give sluggards the impression that they still have time for a nap.  But if you work backwards from the projected date of the IPv4 Exhaustion Event (I4EE), there is a little over 2 years left before there simply aren’t ANY IPv4 addresses left to give out.

Waiting until then will be a bit like running out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert.  In this day and age, you are unlikely to die but you will be plenty uncomfortable and it will likely cost you a lot more in money and time than you might otherwise choose.  But maybe I’d be better off scaring you with the prospect of imminent death and destruction.

Run for hills!  The worms are stampeding!  The ice cream is melting!  My coffee is cooling!

No – it is not really compelling.  Somehow, you have to convince yourself that there are series of inevitable steps to be taken.  And you had better plan to take them while you can do it effectively.  So what are they?

  1. Evaluate your situation – take the time to figure out what IPv6 means to your business, look at where the impacts will be, and determine the requirements, in order of priority.
  2. Develop a transition plan – in order of priority, set milestones for the transition of the key parts of your network, budget for them, and put a team together to execute it.
  3. Execute the plan.
  4. Undertake regular reviews – at each major milestone, reflect on progress to date in the transition, accommodate new information or unexpected complications, and update your go-forward plan.
  5. Do not hesitate.  Do not procrastinate.  Do not wait around for someone else to fix the problem for you.

And if somehow you still don’t know what the problem is, or why it matters to you, do the research.  Now.  Read our whitepaper for starters.  Check out the various information sites. Talk with early adopters like DREN or Boeing to understand the issues.

According to the quasi-official IPv4 Exhaustion Counter, we have just over 2 years left and counting.  Consider this your last warning before it becomes increasingly costly to get off the train before it hits the wall…. albeit in slow motion.

Check it out:

Team AppNeta:

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