How Ready Are Businesses For IPv6 Migration?

by CXOtoday News Desk    May 15, 2015


When the internet was created, it had space for 4.3 billion addresses. At that time, the number was huge. But according to reports, soon we’re likely to run out of IP addresses. A recent Wall Street Journal report states that there are only 3.4 million addresses left in North America, and those are likely to run out in the next couple of months. The addresses in Asia and Europe have already exhausted.

While it may not impact end users right away, it would mean that businesses will now have to shift to a new specification — IPv6, rather than the old IPv4 — and the move is costly. IP address are short series of numbers that are used by computers and servers to identify themselves to each other, allowing for connections to be made and websites and other information to be sent.  IPv6 extends the number of network address bits to 128 bits as against 32 bits in IPv4. “This unlimited address space offered by IPv6 will deliver better and newer applications and services that are reliable, more secured and offers improved user experience,” says Kaushik Nath, Former President, ISACA, and telecom evangelist.

According to India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as India becomes a smart knowledge society, government and citizens will use IPv6 for healthcare, tele-education, smart-metering, smart-grid, smart-building and smart-cities that hold tremendous potential for socio-economic development of this country.

A considerable section of large enterprises in the private sectors have already shifted to the IPv6 standard globally as well as in India and are already seeing much gain in the transition. Considering the explosive growth of devices and connections, IPv6 is expected to become the dominant protocol by 2018. Nath believes that the adoption of IPv6 protocol can help in combating cybercrime, which is on the rise today.

High cost of migration

Despite its positives, just as the article noted companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Salesforce have apparently hoarded up on the addresses to handle this impending shortage of addresses, experts believe large businesses would have little trouble absorbing the costs of switching over to IPv6, but the millions of small businesses are likely to struggle.

As Anshuman Chakravarty, CEO Relaso Product Suites believes that operational cost like training the right staff and maintenance combined are high when it comes to migration. 

Gartner Research estimates the cost of the IPv6 migration will cost the average IT department about seven percent of their annual budget. And along with the price for purchasing new IPs, organizations will also have to make hardware changes on the back end in order to support the newer standard.

Other challenges abound

Apart from cost, poor infrastructure and incomplete awareness of the benefits of IPv6 adoption as well as unavailability of IPv6 trained and certified engineers are the key issues hindering its adoption. “Lack of skilled resources and interoperability are also challenging,” says Chakravarty.

While most service providers have upgraded their infrastructure to support IPv4 and IPv6 side-by-side and businesses can get native IPv6 leased line connectivity, IPv6 connectivity is not usually available to the homes today for broadband Internet services, Srinivas Vegesna, Founder-CEO, Criterion Networks told Express Computer.

“While the transition is bound to happen globally, translating addresses is not only technically challenging but also slows down network traffic,” said Paul Saab, a Facebook engineer in the report, who worked on that company’s changeover from IPv4 to  IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol that offers a mind-boggling number of addresses. 

Time to gear up

“Enterprises that don’t have a plan for what to do with this will have this brought up by their board,” James Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn, an internet consulting firm told WSJ.

According to Nath, businesses - both in PSU and private sectors - the C-suite will should dis­cuss, develop, and imple­ment strategies for making the transition to IPv6,” says Nath.

At present DoT in India has clearly mentioned that all new enterprise customer connections - both wireless and wireline - provided by ISPs shall be capable of carrying IPv6 traffic either on dual stack. As per the IPv6 adoption roadmap, all new IP based services like cloud computing, data centres and others has to be provisioned for and by the government organizations should be on dual stack.

Similarly large enterprises should build a good inventory of their IT resources to support the IPv6 standard, have a phased plan for dual support and implement this plan strategically, believes Mike Sapien, Telecom Analyst at Ovum. 

According to him, government regulations will further drive this support. For India to be ready for IPv6, there has to be an IPv6 ecosystem that will include the government, private players, ISPs and third-party partners. Now is the time for both the government organizations and private sector enterprises to go beyond the planning stage and implement the new standard in order to start reaping its benefits.