Making The Leap

By root

How to migrate to IPv6 from IPv4 is one of the top concerns facing enterprises across the globe at the moment, Network Middle East speaks to IPv6 experts to find out what companies need to know and what their migration options are.
The deployment of IPv6, the new internet protocol poised to take over from IPv4, is accelerating, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and several European countries where IPv4 addresses have run out.
Networking solution expert Brocade, part of the IPv6 forum, a world-wide consortium of global internet vendors, industry subject matter experts, research and education networks, which has a mission to advocate IPv6 by improving technology, market, and deployment, user and industry awareness of IPv6,says that IPv4 addresses have almost dried up.
“When the internet boomed in the early 90’s more applications were delivered with more services, so people starting using the internet more, leading to a dramatic and continuous increase in the number of internet users. Now users also have a smartphone, a tablet PC and at the same time may have a desktop PC, so with this dramatic increase of demands for IP addresses the IPv4 pool has dried up. In the beginning of 2011 the last blocks of IPv4 addresses were assigned to certain service providers across the region,” states Samer Ismair MENA systems engineer for Brocade.
According to strategic information security consulting company Help AG, some of its customers in the Middle East region will have to start handling IPv6 soon, especially if they are communicating with Asia.
But the overall global uptake of IPv6 has been slow because IPv6 does not connect with IPv4 at all. IPv6 works as a separate, yet parallel network, and exchanging traffic between the two networks requires special translator gateways.
D-Link has been a designer and implementer of IPv6 since 2005, and has incrementally integrated IPv6 into its product portfolio. The company says that there are multiple benefits to IPv6, which include the fact that IPv6 has a very large address space and consists of 128 bits as compared to 32 bits in IPv4, which makes it possible to support 2^128 unique IP addresses, a substantial increase in the number of computers that can be addressed with the help of the IPv6 addressing scheme.
In addition, this internet protocol eliminates the need for Network Address Translation (NAT).
“Whereas IPv4 is a best effort service, IPv6 ensures QoS, a set of service requirements to deliver guaranteed performance while transporting traffic over the network. For networking traffic, the quality refers to data loss, latency or bandwidth,” says Sakkeer Hussain K, sales & marketing manager at D-Link Middle East & Africa.
D-link also says that mobile IPv6 ensures transport layer connection survivability and allows a computer or a host to remain reachable regardless of its location in an IPv6 network. In effect, it ensures transport layer connection survivability. With the help of Mobile IPv6, the existing connections through which the mobile node is communicating are maintained, even though the mobile node changes locations and addresses. Other important features of IPv6 are stateless auto-reconfiguration and network-layer security. Stateless auto-reconfiguration allows IPv6 hosts to configure automatically when connected to a routed IPv6 network and network layer security implements network-layer encryption and authentication via IPsec.
IPv6 uptake
Help AG has been working with IPv6 from the angle that its customers need to have a migration strategy for moving to IPv6 based networks.
“Honestly up until now the adoption or uptake or IPv6 is extremely limited, specifically if you are looking at it from an enterprise customer perspective and that is exactly where Help AG is focused and where we have the largest part of our customer base – in the enterprise space, where the uptake of IPv6 has not really been needed up until now,” says Nicolai Solling director of technology services at Help AG.
“But it is definitely changing very quickly. One of the primary reasons is that the Asian registrars and organisations that take care of issuing IP addresses to organisations and service providers, have run out of IP addresses in 2011.
If users purchase a new internet connection now in Asia, they will be issued with an internet protocol version 6 address.
“If our customers are communicating with Asia, at some point, they will have to talk IPv6 natively. There are some patch solutions available at the moment that vendors say translate between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, but it is really only a temporary solution,” Solling adds.
Brocade has developed both wired and wireless networking solutions designed to make sure that its customers’ IPv6 adoption is smooth and seamless.
“When moving from IPv4 only networks to IPv4 and IPv6 networks, the network devices have to support this dual protocol, we call them dual stack networks because there is a transition period where you need to support both in your network before adding only IPv6 networks. Whatever Brocade is doing in the market supports both IPv4 and IPv6,” states Ismair.
ICT solutions provider Huawei says that one of the biggest problems companies are facing when trying to implement IPv6 is that there is no uniform solution for enterprises.
“We believe that the most efficient and cost-effective route to IPv6 will always be specific to the individual enterprise. As such, a detailed network evaluation is required to assess which services, content, and equipment would be impacted by your IPv6 transition. Of course good co-operation with equipment vendors and your ISP will ensure the network analysis takes place quickly and smoothly. After that, entities are in a much better position to seek support for IPv6 and determine whether they will require hardware changes, software upgrades, or perhaps a combination of both,” according to Leo Xu, vice president of Solutions & Marketing, Huawei Middle East.
Migration strategies.
Home internet users or small businesses do not need to worry about transferring to IPv6 as most of the heavy lifting will be done by the service providers and product manufacturers.
However, enterprises and bigger companies who have integration with several suppliers and several partners do need to plan their IPv6 strategy in detail. Some of the major shifts involved in the IPv6 transition include renumbering networks, running two separate networks (IPv4 and IPv6) simultaneously, upgrading relevant software and hardware, training staff, and testing implementations.
“We have found that a well-designed and executed IPv6 plan relies on four key factors: assigning the right people to manage the transition, establishing the right processes to take the project forward, procurement practices that consider both short and long-term investment, and thoroughly evaluating the right IPv6 protocol suite for your network. For all of these areas, we feel that vendors have a particular responsibility to help organisations in understanding the unique costs and benefits of transitioning to IPv6,” explains Xu. There are three main migration strategies that are possible today, according to Help AG.
The first strategy is where enterprises run a dual stack on their devices. This means that all of the devices used by the enterprise will have both an IPv4 and IPv6 address. The second strategy is to run a dual stack on their internet facing devices, such as firewalls and routers.
“This is probably the most realistic one for most organisations. Many firewalls support address translation between IPv4 and IPv6, so what you will have is IPv4 and IPv6 addresses delivered by the service provider and that will be translated into IPv4 in your organisation,” says Solling.
The third option is the one that is the most likely to happen in the short term, according to Help AG, and that is that the service providers in the networks provide translation between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.
“The problem is if you have a server that is running on IPv4 on your own internal network and you want to publish on IPv6, you have to call the service provider and tell them to publish the website and what to do,” according to Solling. “In all of these solutions one of the drawbacks that the customer will have is that they will lose out on the key benefits of IPv6, so right now we are talking about IPv6 from the perspective that we ran out of something else. But it is a much more advanced protocol.”
DLink says that that Ipv4 and Ipv6 will coexist for many years to come and that reliable coexistence will be governed by various transitioning strategies.
Service providers
IPv6 implementation is much more difficult for service providers than for enterprise customers, according to Brocade.
If the service providers decide to do translation for their customers, they have to invest in some very large traffic points where they do the translation. This means that every time a customer wants to publish on IPv6 they have to call their service provider.According to Brocade, both du and Etisalat are purchasing IPv4 and IPv6 compatible devices and Huawei states that many operators such as STC, Etisalat, Wataniya, and Nawras have already taken a serious look at the problem of unallocated address-pool depletion of IPv4, and the company is currently working with them to explore solutions of smooth migration to IPv6.
“In Oman specifically, we have also helped Omantel to upgrade its IP network to become IPv6 ready,” says Xu.
du has confirmed to Network Middle East that the company is actively engaged in a programme for IPv6 transition.
“In the coming few months, residential and enterprise services will become commercially available on IPv6. This will enable our customers to speed-up their transition plans, as the carrier of their services will become fully Pv6 enabled.
“In addition, we are involved with TRA and other industry members to increase awareness on importance of IPv6 transition,” says Farid Faraidooni, chief commercial officer, du.
The company has also confirmed that they will introduce support for IPv6 while retaining full support for IPv4, to enable use of IPv6 services for those customers who demand it.
“This way, we will ensure that a home user whose laptop or other device is IPv6 enabled will use IPv6, while a user who does not support IPv6 will continue to use IPv4 normally,” states Faraidooni.
At the time of going to press Etisalat had not responded to queries on its IPv6 readiness.
Moving across
According to industry assessments, the IPv4 and IPv6 coexistence period may last for up to 20 years, so companies’ networks will have to support IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously.
Public-facing web sites in particularly should provide both IPv4 and IPv6 services, fortunately most of the new network devices and terminals out there do support both IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously, says Huawei.
“Entities will have to support IPv6 someday. Remember that the longer enterprises wait to adopt IPv6, the more costly it is likely to be. We have already seen more enterprises planning and deploying IPv6 as they have now had the chance to thoroughly assess their budgets and priorities,” says Xu.

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