You may have heard people talking about IPv4 versus IPv6. There are now increasingly good reasons to translate some of that talk into action.
Before we go into those reasons, perhaps a quick overview is necessary.
Essentially, IPv4 and IPv6 are both standards-based methods of addressing, and as such are part of the system that enables information to pass from computer to computer. It’s like a system of telephone numbers that one computer uses to reach another.
IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) is the old protocol. It has been around, unchanged since the Internet was created—which is over fifty years ago now. IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is newer, having been developed in 1998.
Issues with IPv4
The first issue with continuing to rely on IPv4 has already been mentioned. It’s old. It was developed when the Internet was no more than a handful of computers linked together, to enable a very limited number of applications.
In an industry that’s geared towards adopting new technologies, that makes it an anomaly. Sure, it has coped, but there are now better options.
The second issue is related to the first. It’s one of the limitations inherent in a system that wasn’t originally specced for what the Internet has become, and you’ve probably heard about before.
Essentially, the world is running out of usable IPv4 addresses. Already, there are countries that are unable to allocate any more. Increasingly large parts of India, China, Germany and others are accessible only via IPv6.
What are you going to do if you suddenly need to connect with one of those parts?
That’s where IPv6 comes in. It uses the same physical networks, but was designed for the Internet as it is now and will be in the future, rather than for what it used to be. All things being equal, it offers better support for faster networks, is able to offer more information about the packages it conveys, and it comes with a very large number of addresses.
Nor is it untested. It’s been around for about 14 years. REANNZ’s own network has had native IPv6 support since we turned it on in 2006.
And the best thing about it is that it’s really easy to do. We’ve done the heavy lifting. We can even supply a large block of addresses. All you need to do is turn it on.
When you do, your users won’t even realise it’s there.
Turning it on
REANNZ suggests turning it on now, in plenty of time before doing so becomes urgent. You don’t have to do it all at once. If you don’t want to mess with your firewalls, you can even make a connection to the outside of your network.
You can roll it out in a controlled fashion (department by department, or with non-critical systems first, or whatever you choose), giving IT teams the time to learn about it and grow comfortable with it.
As you can imagine, it’s much better to do it like that than to scramble around to satisfy a suddenly urgent need to send or receive data to or from a Chinese University that isn’t on IPv4.
And if you don’t do it now, when will you do it? Three years from now? Four? How much of the Internet would you have been unable to access for that length of time if you wait until then?
The time to act is now.
More information and technical details
Contact REANNZ to request a block of IPv6 addresses.
Contact the REANNZ Operations team if you need to talk to someone technical to get you started.
Additionally, the REANNZ Internet collateral documentation has sample configuration for Cisco and Juniper for peering over IPv4 and IPv6, to KAREN and to REANNZ Internet.