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Also posted on: Security Blog
IPv6 Day came and went without much fanfare. That is because, according to participants, it worked. True, there were a few problems encountered, but no more than expected and that was one of the main points of the exercise anyway. According to Cisco, the event proved that careful and gradual adoption will be easier than believed. And Arbor Networks reported that the test was enough to tell us that we can handle the transition to IPv6.
So what happens next? One of the benefits seen from the day is that it has persuaded hardware and software vendors to add support for IPv6 into their products, which has been one of the biggest sticking points to date. There are still further challenges to be overcome, including details of running dual stack IPv4 with IPv6 and new security challenges that are unique to IPv6. But now is the time for all organisations to at least be planning for their own transition.
IPv6 will allow continued growth of the internet, which has become essential for commerce, communication and social interaction. According to Verisign, internal drivers for adoption are for organisations to be as technologically current and future-proofed as possible, whilst external drivers include the need to keep up with the increasing number of devices requiring IP addresses, ranging from mobile and streaming technologies, to smart meters, cars, TVs, game consoles and medical devices, plus a surge in new users from emerging markets who all need IT addresses.
Another push for IPv6 take up is that governments worldwide are increasingly looking to promote take up of IPv6. In Europe, national governments are undertaking their own initiatives, as well as efforts being made at an EU level. The US government is going even further as it believes that IPv6 technologies will allow it to pursue policy goals in areas such as healthcare, education and energy. In September 2010, the federal government mandated that all agencies must upgrade external-facing systems to IPv6 by end-2012 and internal applications that communicate with the internet by 2014.
The transition to IPv6 will not happen overnight, but there is finally a great deal happening to spur adoption. There are workarounds that have been in put in place to extend the life of IPv4 and organisations, but these are just that – temporary workarounds, not a long-term solution. According to Alan Way of Spirent: “The organisation that sticks doggedly to its old IPv4 inheritance won’t be cut off from the outside world, it will simply suffer increasingly degraded performance as more and more communications move to IPv6. For financial services and such high speed transactions this would be disastrous. For other businesses, it could still erode their competitive edge.”