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Negative hype surrounding IPv6 is overblown, analyst says

By Donna Donowitz
March 11, 2011
With computing experts around the world agreeing that the move to IPv6 is rapidly approaching, many have been predicting huge headaches for IT departments during the switch. However, according to Computerworld UK columnist Melvyn Wray, this is a storm in a teacup.

Wray compares the perceived crisis in the IT world to that experienced during the run-up to Y2K. While many problems could have arisen during that switchover, the actual transition happened with few hiccups, and few users noticed anything amiss.

As IPv4 addresses continue to grow more scarce, the IT community has begun to take the prospect of switching to IPv6 more seriously, Wray writes. However, actual ISPs are the ones who will have the most to deal with as a result of the widespread adoption of the new protocol. Testing interactions between IPv6 and IPv4 systems could prove troublesome, but one that most computing professionals won't have to deal with.

Wray points out, as well, that Asia has been leading the way in IPv6 adoption largely because the internet is a somewhat newer phenomenon there. This means that the dearth of IPv4 addresses has become problematic far more quickly in those countries.

"For example, the whole 2008 Beijing Olympics network was on IPv6 and all broadcasters and partners had to convert to IPv6 for that period," he writes.

As long as IT departments plan responsibly and recognize the few challenges that are likely to materialize, the transition to IPv6 is not likely to be particularly troublesome, according to Wray. In fact, he adds, some facets of the new internet protocol could make tech professionals' lives easier.

Among the upsides to the IPv6 protocol, Wray says, are built-in security measures that must be implemented by hand for IPv4 systems. Any new machines placed on an IPv6 network receive the benefits of existing firewall protection automatically, without the need for address translation. Additionally, the improved options for remote device management could offer exciting new possibilities for IPv6-based institutions.

Nevertheless, other experts say, the move is not one that should be undertaken haphazardly or too late. Having a solid plan in place will ensure minimal service level disruption and make sure the transition doesn't cause too many problems for end-users.


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