The address space used by the current version of the Internet protocol, IPv4, is rapidly running out. The familiar four number code is fast being usurped by a new protocol — IPv6 — which provides over four-billion times more space, and infinitely more options for companies worldwide.
Although IPv6 technology has already been deployed extensively in many large networks, it has yet to be implemented on a global scale. World IPv6 Day, which took place on 8 June, marked the ‘official’ transition from IPv4 to IPv6, with major players across the globe uniting to enable the new protocol with minimal disturbance to web users.
Are You Ready?
But are companies ready for this transition? The truth is that most organisations don’t believe that they actually need to make provisions for the move to IPv6, with a number of recent polls suggesting that fewer than 40% of companies foresee themselves moving to the IPv6 protocol in the near future.
Failure to prepare for this move could ultimately end up hindering an organisation’s success, particularly those with externally facing systems, such as websites and streaming services. As the IPv6 protocol becomes more prevalent, web users will increasingly be unable to access sites running on IPv4, thus endangering a website’s customer base.
A ‘head in the sand’ approach to IPv6 is certainly not the recommended way forward, especially for companies with clients in China, where the shortage of IPv4 addresses is most pressing. Ultimately, businesses need to start rapidly making provisions for the IPv6 switch, or they could be left behind.
While bigger corporates are largely ready to proceed with this new protocol, many smaller organisations are faced with a daunting and potentially expensive task.
Appropriate support has yet to be written for IPv6 protocols, and existing switches, routers and servers often don’t support it. Conversion can represent an exceptionally costly operation, particularly due to the fact that companies need to run a combination system to take into account both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.
New web servers and operating systems are also needed in order to achieve compatibility, and companies will have to foot a hefty bill in order to meet these requirements and to get staff up to speed.
As a result, organisations are putting off the move until they feel it to be absolutely essential, at which point it might just be too late.
An Easier Alternative
There are, however, simpler and more cost-effective ways for smaller companies to implement full IPv6 compatibility in the short-term.
A number of widely available load balancing software packages represent the ideal choice for organisations looking to upscale their compatibility without excess hassle or cost, as they allow web clients to accept both IPv6 and IPv4 traffic and distribute those requests to IPv4 web servers in the clients’ network.
These load balancers’ ability to accept IPv6 traffic while still communicating with servers on IPv4 allows them to proxy IPv6 traffic without servers having to be configured or upgraded.
Whilst this might not be the answer for all companies, particularly those with heavy web traffic, it is a quick and simple way to achieve compatibility without having to incur unnecessary expenditure.
Ultimately, organisations around the globe need to accept that the future of the internet has arrived, and should be making provisions accordingly. Compatibility needn’t necessarily be a hassle or a massive expense, but it is a necessity that shouldn’t be overlooked or underrated.
June 7, 2012