IPv6 Prep Warnings Get More Urgent

Verizon is the latest service provider to urge businesses to get ready for the transition before IPv4 numbers are all gone

September 2, 2010

4 Min Read
IPv6 Prep Warnings Get More Urgent

Service providers are banging the drum for the coming shift to IPv6, hoping to convince business customers that they need to prepare well in advance of the exhaust of IPv4 addresses, expected to happen in 2011.

Verizon Enterprise Solutions issued the latest such warning today, putting out a detailed set of instructions for how businesses should be planning for this crucial transition, well ahead of being forced to do so. (See Verizon Offers IPv6 Transition Aid.)

Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) had issued its own statement in mid-summer, and both companies say they are providing professional services assistance to businesses. NTT America Inc. has been very active on the IPv6 front as well, encouraging companies to make the transition sooner rather than later. (See NTT America Charts Future Plans.)

The effort began earlier this year but has been picking up steam since spring, says William Schmidlapp, senior consultant in product marketing for Verizon Business. Verizon's warning encourages businesses to look in detail at their own situation now because every business has its own issues to address, based on the way the business is operated and how it uses Internet connections. (See Too Many Not Ready for IPv6, Lab Warns and Is IPv6 Finally on the Verge?.)

"We want our customers to not only look at their Internet-facing capabilities but their network capability overall," Schmidlapp says. "One of the things we try to communicate is that businesses need to be doing a deep dive within their own internal infrastructure to know how that infrastructure interacts with devices that hit the Internet, such as smartphones, or getting content from the Internet. And how much of the consumer-based market do they want to reach for content delivery or e-commerce?"

The proliferation of smartphones and the coming of 4G wireless networks are both drivers for IPv6 deployment, and businesses may be unpleasantly surprised to realize there is a segment of the consumer population they can no longer reach, if they haven't prepared, Schmidlapp warns. Some of the most vulnerable applications may be homegrown systems, with embedded IPv4 addresses but no obvious need for a IPv6 upgrade.

One reason businesses have been slow to embrace the IPv6 transition is that many of them see it as a technology transition with no revenue payoff, admits Qwest CTO Pieter Poll. But a major reason to plan for the transition now, ahead of IPv4 number exhaust, is to use capital resources in the best possible way, upgrading only where necessary.

"That's why we are encouraging them to do an in-depth analysis of how this affects them," Poll says. "They need to look beyond the obvious -- 'Does my carrier support IPv6? Does my router support IPv6?' to their own back-office systems. That way they can determine what has to be done now, and what they can afford to put off until later."

Doug Junkins, CTO of NTT America, says businesses may find the IPv6 transition isn't really about forklift upgrades to major systems, but about fine-tuning and adapting what you have.

"The fear about having to spend money on this problem is larger than the reality," he says. "Most of the major equipment vendors have been shipping IPv6-enabled hardware and software for some time now, so it's really more of a process of testing and tuning systems. It does take time and money from a resource perspective, but I don't think it is the huge capital outlay that some enterprises are fearing."

This is a commercial opportunity for service providers, to provide consulting and professional services, Schmidlapp admits, but there are many things that enterprises can and should be doing on their own, since they are most familiar with their own operations.

"From a professional services perspective, we are working with customers in order to help educate them on V6 and guide them on some of the things they need to look for -- how their apps are set up, how their infrastructure is set up," he says.

Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) , the US technology standards group that includes all major telecom service providers, has published a set of best practices for IPv6 readiness, Poll points out. And this is one area on which competing service providers agree.

The real danger, Junkins says, is that enterprises that don't plan ahead will find themselves scrambling at the last minute, probably spending more than necessary, to keep critical applications up and running.

"Companies that put their heads in the sand on this may find it's more cost prohibitive in the end, and they may wind up with equipment that isn't exactly right for their business," agrees Verizon's Schmidlapp.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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