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AT&T sets IPv6 timeline

By Max Burkhalter
August 12, 2011
Like many major telecom providers, AT&T has been on the forefront of IPv6 deployment. The company already has IPv6 networks established to support government organizations, educational centers and research facilities, and it is now working hard to convert its backbone networks to the new address protocol standard, according to a recent whitepaper from Tom Siracusa, executive director of AT&T Labs.

Siracusa explains that the growing importance of network connectivity in the enterprise is fueling the reduction in IPv4 addresses. Furthermore, the whitepaper said increasing deployment of machine-to-machine communications among businesses is playing a growing role in IPv4 address depletion. As a result, most companies need to begin preparing to switch to the new IPv6 address protocol, the whitepaper said.

This process could prove to be quite complicated, as companies need to adjust their infrastructure to support the new protocol without sacrificing their ability to handle users with IPv4-enabled devices. As a result, dual-stack configurations that support both address protocols could be key for at least a few years. However, AT&T has set the date for full IPv6 to 2020.

The whitepaper sets forth a number of phases that should help companies identify the best ways to transition to the new protocol. The first step is to migrate customer-facing services to the address system. Internet-facing systems need to be ready for IPv6 because IPv4 addresses are running out quickly in international sites, and companies need to have their customer-facing systems able to handle both protocols before the end of 2011, the whitepaper said.

Establishing the network so internal users can deploy IPv4 and IPv6 should happen between 2011 and 2012, the whitepaper said, and 2012-2013 should be spent getting the WAN set up in a dual-stack configuration. Application migration, which will require a similar process to what companies did to prepare for Y2K needs to happen between 2013 and 2016, while the final phase, completing the move to IPv6, should happen between 2014 and 2020, according to the whitepaper.

In many cases, businesses are making more progress toward IPv6 than most perceive. Typically, experts think most organizations are behind on IPv6 migration, with service providers dramatically outpacing them. But a recent Network World study found many businesses are actually moving quickly toward IPv6 migration.


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