When the IANA started keeping track of IP addresses back in the 90s, no one expected the global phenomena that the internet would become. 32 bits that were once considered more than necessary are now obsolete and the transition to IPv6 is becoming more and more imminent.
The western hemisphere has already begun the migration to IPv6 with the US Government leading the way. The use of the new Internet Protocols has increased dramatically over the past year, however, for homes and businesses looking to make this transition, there may be a few pitfalls along the way.
What is IPv6?
Before we talk about the challenges in IPv6 adoption, let us discuss what is IPv6. Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 for short is the next generation of rules that is needed when communicating traffic from one point to another on the interweb. IPv6 was designed to replace IPv4 when it became evident that Version 4 was no longer viable.
IPv6 uses 128 bits to configure users’ address locations in order to send and receive data packets. In contrast to IPv4’s 32 bits, this is a huge step up. IPv4 allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses whereas IPv6 can work with trillions.
The migration to a completely new technology will of course present its own set of unique challenges. Let us take a look.
1. Lack of Knowledge
IPv6 is still in its infancy. It has barely begun infiltration into the industry and as such, most network administrators are not familiar with the protocol. The consequence is that there are a lot of security risks that may be present which will not be obvious the admins since they are not familiar with the system. Hackers with better knowledge can find these loopholes and attack your system.
2. Transitional Cost
Businesses have already invested a large portion of their funds into a secure IPv4 network, along with the resources needed. On top of that IPv4 uses NAT (Network Address Transition) which, despite its problems, works. Setting up a completely different system would mean huge financial expenditure for the company. Neither users nor ISP providers care about the IP version used. All of this combined makes the cost of transitional usually not worth the move.
3. Dealing with Complexity
IPv6 is much more complex than version 4 and the migration will be that much more difficult. Entire departments will need to be overhauled and all workstations must be updated in order to accommodate the new system of protocols. This will require huge levels of organization and co-operation. Productivity will be lost during the change with only little gain following, making the decision to migrate to IPv6 even seem even more unsuitable.
4. Dealing with Legacy Systems
Legacy systems are basically older systems that are missing functionalities of newer technologies but continue to exist due to some key requirement. Since they still manage to function, often network admins do not see a reason to replace them. However, with the advent of IPv6 all these devices must be replaced and newer technologies incorporated. If the device cannot utilize version 6 addresses, there will be conflicts in the network and the system will not work efficiently, thus negating any benefits of the move.
5. Cleaning Current IPv4 Inventory
IPv4 has an active inventory that include deices, equipment and services like DNS and DHCP. Changing the version to 6 means completely having to change the inventory and start from scratch. When deleting IPv4 from the system, administrators need to ensure all links to the version have been deleted and incorporated into v6. This is the final step of the migration process. Careful planning and even more careful execution is key. Errors in this step can lead the entire network to cease functioning and your entire migration to have been in vain.
While the world is slowly moving to the newer version of Internet Protocols, a complete migration is still far away. Despite its benefits, the transition holds too many risks and cons for many to justify the switch. Nevertheless, there will come a time when the entire world will need to shift its system and being one step ahead in the change will never be a downfall.