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IPv6 day is more than just larger internet addresses, says Verisign

Don't be dazzled by the numbers
Wed Jun 08 2011, 08:26

TODAY IS THE DAY that the internet community has to stop running away from IPv6, with some of the largest websites and content distribution networks switching over to IPv6 for 24 hours.

IPv6 day is an initiative sponsored by outfits such as Akamai, Bing, Facebook, Google, Limelight Networks, Yahoo and many others to push IPv6 into the view of their customers. It's been a long time coming, and one of the firms involved, Verisign, claims that companies have to do much more than just ask their local regional internet registry (RIR) for a set of IPv6 addresses.

Verisign, known primarily as the registry that handles the .com and .net top-level domains, also works with its clientele in the areas of network security and high availability services. It told The INQUIRER that since hearing of IANA's final allocation of IPv4 addresses to RIRs, its customers have shown more interest in IPv6.

Danny McPherson, chief security officer at Verisign told The INQUIRER, "In general, the community is much more aware of the issue of IPv4 exhaustion and the implications on IPv6 preparedness. As the RIRs begin to exhaust their remaining IPv4 allocations, in very short order the pain will become much more evident." In many ways IANA announcing the allocation of the final IPv4 blocks was a watershed moment for IPv6 deployment, making companies realise that the need to migrate to IPv6 is far closer than it has ever been before.

When asked whether companies such as Verisign could have done more to push large enterprises to move to IPv6 sooner, McPherson was philosophical. "The biggest part of the equation is that IPv4 and IPv6 are 'bits on the wire' incompatible. As such, absent some killer application or network externalities (carrot) that drive folks to adoption of IPv6, IPv4 exhaustion (stick) has pushed us here. We certainly anticipate a long period of transitional co-existence between IPv4 and IPv6, and will do our part to foster optimal deployment models that best consider the constraints and embrace the opportunity IPv6 affords."

Verisign is suggesting that customers consider all aspects of IPv6, both hardware and software. Verisign is pushing its customers to look at security of services such as email and third party applications. Usually the vendors that do this try to peddle their own products but McPherson, when asked whether Verisign gives advice regarding hardware and software vendors, said, "Nope, but we do advise them to ensure that all the network elements and applications in their operating environments are IPv6 ready, in the sense that they provide functional parity to the IPv4 capabilities they utilise today, and disable all out of the box services that they are not using."

McPherson's advice for companies still on the fence about investing in IPv6 is to get off and take action before it ends up becoming a significant cost. When asked whether it is too late to start IPv6 preparation, McPherson said, "I can say that if you've not obtained budget in play this year or already in the past for IPv6 staffing expertise, as well as network and application support, then you're likely behind the curve. Your only alternative, increase awareness or expertise and figure out just what IPv6 means in your operating environment. You should strive for 'functional parity' - many functions are different between IPv4 and IPv6 - and disable all the out of the box services and capabilities that you're not using in order to minimize your attack surface."

What McPherson's comments show is that there is far more to IPv6 than just more internet addresses. Internet users will have to evaluate whether their current hardware and software systems are up to the job when it comes to IPv6 or they will face problems.

At the very least, IPv6 day will raise the awareness for something that's vital to the continued usability of the internet, which makes the fact that it has had to be rammed down the throats of network providers and enterprises all the more shocking. µ


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