For many, the thought of moving to IPv6 is a theoretical exercise. The thinking goes that the existing network, running IPv4, with a mixture of route-able and private IP addresses is more than enough for today, and tomorrow. Why complicate things? The straight facts are IPv4 exhaustion is coming, and organizations will need the appropriate “hands on” skills in working with IPv6.
For the unfamiliar, IPv6 is the successor to IPv4. IP or “Internet Protocol” is the underlying technology that allows you to be reading this blog post. At its simplest, IPv4 assigns your computer a location on the network, a location that allows routers a way to get information to and from your system.
Then, one could assume IPv6 is a simple upgrade, since TCP, UDP and ICMP continue to operate in a similar manner. The short answer is “no.” IPv6 uses a base 16 notation to denote it’s address. IPv4 uses a quad dotted base 10 notation. It means that for network admins and architects, the simple familiar 18.104.22.168 becomes abcd:abcd:abcd:abcd:abcd. With the address space being trillions of trillions of trillions of times bigger, concepts like NAT go away. You do not need them, when every star in every galaxy in existence could have it’s own 4.3 billion addresses.
Why no NAT? There is no need since every address is route-able. Applications in addition to using ports, could use IPv6 addressing schemes for control and backplace operations as well as data transport. Our method of layer 4 to 7 communication fundamentally changes.
To start on this journey, a good IPAM (IP Address Management) solution is needed. Beyond spreadsheets, or Active Directory, think of how your organization will handle this transition. It is coming, and the sooner organizations prepare, the better. IPAM brings benefits of managing the IP space effectively, and combine that with Software Defined Networks (SDN) you can get some very powerful ways to reduce the costs of transition and get a better managed network out of this.
It’s best to start now, rather than later. Blue Cat provides some very robust software that happens to provide IPAM functionality and SDN components that take network and address management to the next level. If you are thinking of modernizing your network, they should be in your list of products to review.