Many small businesses operate their own networks, either for customer use or for internal operations. The extent to which your network needs to be upgraded will depend on your specific setup. To ensure that your business is not adversely affected, you should start by making sure you have answers to these questions:
- Are you and your IT staff aware of IPv6?
- Is your Internet Service Provider ready to provide IPv6 connectivity?
- Is your own network equipment IPv6 compatible, and if not, what steps are necessary to make it IPv6 compatible?
- Have you considered IPv6-readiness in your technology upgrade cycle?
Based on the answers to these questions, you will be able to plan the steps you need to take to ensure that IPv6 adoption doesn’t see your business left behind.
Where are you now?
The first step is to assess where you are in relation to IPv6. Your Internet Service Provider may already offer IPv6 connectivity, you may already be operating hardware and software that is compatible with IPv6, and using IPv6 may be as simple as flipping a switch. It is more likely though, that deploying IPv6 will involve at least some investment of time and resources.
The following checklist is a rough guide to how you may wish to proceed:
- Appoint a project manager
- Talk to your Internet Service Provider
- Identify the network components that will need to be changed or upgraded
- Identify the training needs for team and project manager
- Determine costs of new hardware and software
- Select suppliers (possibly the same as you have today) and consultants
- Draft a project plan and start implementation
Talk to your ISP
Most businesses rely on an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for their connection to the Internet. Your own network’s IPv6 requirements and deployment schedule will be contingent upon your upstream provider’s IPv6 deployment, so it is important that you understand what your ISP can provide and when.
Some questions that you might ask your service provider:
- Do you currently provide IPv6 connectivity?
- If not, when do you plan to deploy IPv6 on your customer networks? What is your deployment timeline?
- When will our website be available over IPv6?
- Do you provide customers with IPv6-compatible modems, or other devices necessary for connecting over IPv6?
- Why have you not provided information for your customers on IPv6 and the requirements from our side to be ready?
Once you have agreed a plan of action with your ISP, these are a few of the things you need to consider:
- Physical technology
- Software compatibility
An essential part of making your business IPv6 ready is to ensure that your equipment is compatible with the next generation of IP addressing. The first step is to carry out an IT audit to identify which pieces of equipment (routers, servers and other hardware) need upgrading or even replacing.
Your hardware vendor(s) should be able to help you with this process, and advise you on how to make the necessary changes. It may require a significant amount of time and effort to convert all elements of your IT infrastructure, so you may want to consider a staged deployment.
Below is a list of information provided by a sample of hardware vendors to get you started.
- Alcatel Lucent
(see also IPv6 – The Road Ahead, a 2006 white paper published by Alcatel Lucent)
- Sun Microsystems
In order for your entire network to be IPv6 ready you need to ensure that all hardware and software is dual stacked (running IPv4 and IPv6). If you have purchased software from a third party you’ll need to get in touch with the provider to check if the product is already IPv6 compatible or if there’s an upgrade available. A great deal of software already on the market (including many computer operating systems, though not Windows XP) is IPv6-ready by default.
If no IPv6 upgrade is available, you’ll need to look for an alternative software source. Any software that you have developed in house may have to be rewritten.
There are many IPv6 training course options available, from online education to face-to-face training.
If your organisation is a member of the RIPE NCC, your staff can attend the RIPE NCC’s IPv6 Training Course for free. This course provides information on how to obtain IPv6 addresses and how to prepare your deployment plan. The course is open to all members and is free of charge.
At the more technical end of the scale, there are several RFC documents maintained by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that include case studies for IPv6 deployment under various business models:
- RFC 5375: IPv6 Unicast Address Asssignment Considerations
Aims to provide the information and recommendations relevant to planning the addressing aspects of IPv6 deployments. The document also provides IPv6 addressing case studies for both an enterprise and an ISP network.