The Impending Nightmare of IPv6

Recently, I've been writing a lot about IPv6, the next generation of the Internet Protocol that makes the Internet and most home and business networks go. Now, like it or lump it, we, starting with our businesses and mobile devices and eventually our home networks, are all going to have to move to IPv6.

That is going to be a major pain, especially for network administrators, but as I've been working more with IPv6 I've discovered other problems. A lot of network equipment out there can't actually handle IPv6.

Oh, the vendors may say that it supports IPv6, but the truth is another matter. I'm not going to name names because I've been finding this during the course of upgrading my own network infrastructure to IPv6 instead of in a lab. If I had access to a real lab I could spend the time needed to make sure of my conclusions and explain exactly what's happening.

What I can say though is that there's a lot of hardware network incompatibilties out there. In the course of using both enterprise and SOHO (small office-home-office) equipment I found that even devices from the same vendor sometimes couldn't connect using IPv6 with each other. This is not good.

At least modern operating systems, like Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 and the Linux distributions do a good job of supporting IPv6. It's the hardware -- the routers, the switchs -- that's the problem.

You may think you don't have to worry about IPv6. After all, how often do you have to worry about your Internet address? The problem you see is that we really are running out of IP addresses. We're down to 6% left of all IPv4 addresses in early August 2010. When they're gone, they're gone. That means when your business needs some more IP addresses in early 2012, you're either going to have to pay a pretty penny for them or get IPv6 addresses.

It was always going to be hard enough to convert networks over to IPv6 without hardware headaches, now it's going to be even more of a pain-in-the-rump. I've been saying for some time that companies need to start working on IPv6 today. I'm sorry to say that you'll need to start testing out the network equipment for IPv6 compatibility. You're not going to be able to order COTS (Commercial, off-the-shell) LAN hardware and be certain that it will work in your office.

Wonderful, just wonderful.

So, once more, get cracking on your network conversion now before having a network failure that can keep a branch office off the Internet. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to taking care of my own networks headaches.

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