The top five myths of IPv4 and IPv6

Published: May 16th, 2011

With the final blocks of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses now in the hands of the world’s five regional Internet registries (RIRs), it’s only a matter of time before this supply is exhausted.

In fact, one RIR, Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), announced last month that it had run out of its allocated block of IPv4 addresses. APNIC is the first of the RIRs to deplete its pool of IPv4 addresses. Most of the remaining world’s IPv4 addresses are expected to be given out by the end of this year.

Even though more attention is now being paid to the new protocol, IPv6, there’s still a lot of uncertainty and fear around the new version and what it means for Internet users.

CDN tries to uncover and explain some of the most common myths surrounding IPv4 and IPv6 by speaking with James McCloskey, senior research analyst for voice, video and security at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

Myth No. 1: Is the sky falling?

The short answer to this is no, but that doesn’t mean businesses and consumers should ignore the upcoming protocol and delay working on IPv6 migration strategies, McCloskey said. Regardless of whether or not you’re an IPv6 denier or IPv6 believer, McCloskey said IPv6 is coming and Internet users must be ready.

“The first step would be to take an inventory of where you are in terms of endpoints and network capabilities to see if they’re capable of handling IPv6,” he said. “There’s a good chance that if you’ve done a refresh of gear within the last five years it’s IPv6-capable. It just needs to be configured to run it.”

From a channel perspective, the transition period toward IPv6 may be a bit of a challenge because it’s not so much about selling new gear, but it’s more about helping customers take advantage of what they already have and implementing services around it, he added.

“It’s a bit of a mind-shift for partners because there’s a chance that if they’ve been traditionally focused on selling gear and making revenues off that, they may not be as incented to help out with IPv6 migrations,” McCloskey said. “But there’s a great opportunity for partners here. Those partners who are closest to the network and hardware can offer their expertise and provide a service for customers to help them develop and execute on IPv6 strategies.”

A lack of awareness has actually led to a lot of fear-mongering said Jag Bains, director of network operations at Peer 1 Hosting, a Vancouver-based collocation and hosting provider. As a result, he said the company often fields many questions about IPv6 and is working to help customers understand the new IP and meet customers’ transition demands.

“We can enable IPv4 and IPv6 services for customers,” Bains said. “We also have hosting and collocation services available. Over the next few months, we’ll also provide IPv6 capabilities that will speak to security and backup in the hosting world.”

Myth No. 2: Developing an IPv6 strategy can wait

From a security administration perspective, things like firewalls, intrusion prevention and detection systems are, for the most part, configured for IPv4. In order to maintain security visibility, it’s important that equipment is configured to actively support IPv6, McCloskey said.

Even if organizations may think they have all of their IPv4 needs in order, the reality is that IPv6 is being rolled-out and implemented globally, especially in growing economies. In order to continue to maintain an online presence, organizations must ensure they have a strategy in place that will allow any user to find and interact with them online, he added.

Myth No. 3: Once IPv4 addresses are handed out, they’re gone for good

“You may actually be able to squeeze more life out of your existing IPv4 addresses,” McCloskey said.

The first approach is to reclaim any network space that’s not used. A lot of the companies that were connected to the Internet in its early days had lots of address space given to them. These businesses may not have been able to use all of them so there still may be some IPv4 addresses in the subnet that can be freed up for use, he explained. Organizations may also be able to take advantage of network address translation capabilities to help expand its use of private IPv4 addresses.

Myth No. 4: Consumers won’t notice much of a difference

“From an operating system standpoint (desktop/laptop/tablet/PDA), it’s not a big deal, although home users with very old, unsupported OSes like Win95 will be affected,” McCloskey said.

Older consumer routers that can’t be upgraded to be dual-stack capable to support IPv4 and IPv6 must be replaced but more recent consumer routers are likely able to handle both IP versions, he added.

“Hardcore gamers are likely to face problems sooner than the average consumer, as a result of wanting to take advantage of native IPv6 gaming networks and wanting to avoid any latency introduced by IPv4/IPv6 translation solutions,” McCloskey said.

Myth No. 5: IPv4 is here to stay

McCloskey said based on trends of other solid legacy technologies, it’s likely that IPv4 won’t go away anytime soon.

“IPv4 will be around for a decade at least and over that time, some organizations will not be able to succeed because they’re not tapping into or growing their IPv6 environment,” he said. “Others will realize they can’t wait anymore and make that shift to IPv6.”


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