Update Your WAN for the IPv6 Transition
by August 17, 2017

Filed under: Networking Technology, Performance Monitoring

No one would blame you if you can’t muster up much enthusiasm for IPv6. After all, IPv6 has been “the future” of internet protocols since its inception in 1998, without much evidence it’s happening. Even though you’ve been reading about the impending downfall of IPv4 since 2007, here we are in 2017 watching adoption just barely creep above 20%.

You probably aren’t in a hurry to update existing software and install new equipment that supports IPv6—especially when you’re getting by just fine conserving IPv4 addresses with the help of network address translation (NAT).

But before you let IPv6 completely fade to the back of your mind, we have to talk about its inevitable impact on your WAN.

One IPv6 Benefit Could Be Your Headache

The “IPv4 vs. IPv6” story is well-known at this point. The advent of mobile devices and always-connected IoT sensors have all but exhausted the IPv4 protocol. This has opened the door for IPv6, which offers enough 128-bit internet addresses for the foreseeable future of connectivity.

If you’re coming from an IPv4 mindset, just the thought of sending address requests and managing all of the IP addresses manually could be enough to frustrate you. However, moving to IPv6 can alleviate these menial backend tasks.

IPv6 is built with a stateless address auto-configuration (SLAAC) protocol. This protocol allows IPv6 devices to create their own unique IP addresses when they’ve identified the appropriate prefix from your network. This gives you the flexibility to add endless amounts of connected devices to the network. That can open up a lot of possibilities for businesses thinking about IoT and other new technologies.

But while your digital transformation needs might be satisfied by IPv6 from a protocol perspective, that doesn’t mean your network is ready to be inundated with new, bandwidth-hungry devices. With businesses opening new remote locations all the time, network infrastructure is ever more important. The WAN, in particular, has to be able to keep up with new workloads and technology.

If you aren’t careful, the auto-provisioning aspect of IPv6 can result in an overloaded WAN that can’t maintain strong end-user experiences.

WAN First, IPv6 Later

People have been writing about the IPv6 transition for years—how to plan for it, what to buy, and the best way to execute it. For IT leaders taking the most cost-effective approach to a slow transition, migrating the WAN to dual stack (to support both IPv4 and IPv6) with new access routers seems to be the best plan.

The conversation about IPv6 deployment tends to leave out the real problem—that your WAN isn’t ready to make the most of IPv6 in the first place.

The rise of IPv6 might give you a good reason to look more closely at new SD-WAN solutions. Rather than trying to force your legacy WAN infrastructure to accommodate an explosion of IPv6 devices and the general growth of connectivity, a software-defined WAN gets you out of the proprietary, costly hardware mindset and into an approach that focuses on agility.

When your WAN is set up with flexibility in mind, you can make sure that application performance remains strong and end-user experience isn’t diminished as IPv6 takes hold.

There’s no doubt that the transition to IPv6, along with a more effective WAN infrastructure, will help you and your remote locations meet the demands of a modern business world—just as long as you set yourself up for success.

If you want to learn more about staying on top of your WAN, download our free guide, Choosing the Right Technology for Remote Location Monitoring.