Is Your Company at Risk of an IPv6 Brain Drain?

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Timothy Winters, senior manager at the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), gets calls every week from headhunters looking to hire network engineers, network architects and software developers with experience in IPv6, the looming upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol.

"A lot of people are sending me job opportunities in the IPv6 space," says Winters, who has more than 10 years of experience testing routers, firewalls and other network devices for compatibility with IPv6-related standards. Winters says the IPv6 hiring frenzy is the result of "a lot of companies rushing as fast as they can to get IPv6 deployed in their products."

The sudden demand for IT professionals with IPv6 experience coincides with a push by content providers such as Yahoo, carriers like AT&T and network equipment vendors like Juniper to expand their IPv6 offerings.

CIOs from all vertical industries are realizing that they need to deploy IPv6 on their public-facing Web sites in the next few months or risk making these sites unavailable to new Internet users and devices that ship with IPv6 addresses.

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The growing interest in IPv6 is the result of the Internet having run out of unassigned addressing using the existing version of the Internet Protocol known as IPv4.

Another driver for IPv6-related job opportunities is World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of IPv6 that is scheduled for June 8. Dozens of high-profile network companies and content providers -- including Cisco, Juniper, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft -- have announced plans to participate in World IPv6 Day.

"I've seen a lot of companies wanting to demo or show stuff around World IPv6 Day," Winters says.

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Meanwhile, U.S. federal agencies must adopt IPv6 on their public facing Web sites and services by September 2012 because of a new mandate from the Obama administration.

As IPv6 momentum builds, so do the job and career prospects for IT professionals with knowledge and hands-on experience with this emerging network technology.

One sign of the times is that the 12 undergraduates who work at the UNH-IOL IPv6 testing lab are getting job offers months in advance of graduation, Winters said.

Demand for UNH-IOL students has coincided with an increase in the number of devices -- currently 20 per month -- that the lab is testing for compliance with the U.S. government's IPv6 profile and the IPv6 Forum's IPv6-Ready Logo program. To meet the rising demand for IPv6 product testing, Winters added one full-time staff member and five undergraduate students to the lab's staff last year.

"We haven't had any of our five full-time staff poached," Winters says, "but our undergraduate students haven't had any trouble finding jobs."

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