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IPv6 could mean industry-wide upgrades

By Donna Donnowitz
May 2, 2011
The current IPv6 climate is moving much more slowly than many experts originally expected, but will still have a disruptive and positive impact on the networking industry.

According to a recent report, service providers are not rushing to deploy IPv6-compatible infrastructure, because they have a clear understanding of how many IPv4 addresses are available to them and how long they will last. Furthermore, many do not recognize IPv6 as an investment, and see it more as a necessary change to support more internet users, the report said.

While these attitudes are slowing IPv6 adoption, the report said most service providers are also paced just as much by their technical needs. Such factors as equipment redundancy, software changes and eventual deployment are all impacting IPv6 use.

The report said most telecom providers use multiple vendors to meet their hardware needs. This climate forces manufacturers to maintain competitive pricing models and helps the vendor offer more diverse services. However, when it comes to migrating to meet the IPv6 protocol, the service provider must upgrade all of its hardware. This is a complex transition, because it requires engaging with many hardware types from multiple vendors.

When companies are able to get their hardware situation figured out, the report said they also need to address changes to the software. Updating the network infrastructure to support dual-stack or separate IPv4 and IPv6 tunnels requires significant software changes. Telecom providers need to create lab environments to test these changes because any errors could create a major outage. In many cases, programming has not changed for years, the report said.

In the end, the report said, these challenges could be overcome in such a way that it ends up benefiting the industry as a whole. Since companies will have to invest in new hardware and software anyway to make IPv6 possible, the report said businesses are likely to deploy more advanced options and make large-scale service updates to improve network performance and telecom service plans.

Many service providers and businesses are still clinging to IPv4, but a recent InformationWeek report said the time has come for companies, especially service providers, to move toward IPv6. The report said the delays in IPv6 deployment have been understandable, since the network infrastructure industry often centers around which needs are most urgent. However, the IPv6 need has become so critical that companies need to begin working toward the standard, according to the report.


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