You may have heard buzz on the topic of transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 technology. So far, there are jargon-filled pleas urging organizations to switch, but little clear-cut guidance on how to tackle that transition. Some wonder: Is it akin to the Y2K days, where organizations spent thousands of dollars and hours to prevent doom and gloom? Not quite. With Y2K, the risk was that with the dawn of the millennium all systems would cease to function. IPv6 does not pose that type of risk. Even still, it is a critical issue for government agencies, non-profit organizations and corporations that conduct public or customer-facing interactions over the Web.
IPv4 vs. IPv6
Before we tackle what you need to know to best serve your organization, let's review the primary issues related to the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. An Internet Protocol (IP) address is an identifier for a computer on a TCP/IP network. TCP/IP connects hosts on the Internet and helps transmit data over networks. While users rely on easy-to-remember domain names to find businesses or computers on the Web, TCP/IP networks do not. Instead, they rely on IP addresses. DNS service then "translates" the user-friendly domain names to the network-required IP addresses.
When IP technology was originally developed, it was done so with a limited (albeit massive) number of IP addresses. Today, we've essentially run out of addresses; IPv4 isn't big enough to support the global demand for networks. IPv6 on the other hand is big enough to support demand. And it is so much bigger in terms of capacity, that running out of space should never again be an issue.
Because of the manner in which addresses are assigned and managed, IPv4 addresses are actually still available. However, in time, that inventory will be depleted. When that happens, only IPv6 addresses will be available.
So what does that mean for your organization?
It means you will need to determine which areas of your organization should be supported by IPv4 versus IPv6. Since the IPv4 protocol is not going away any time soon, there will still be plenty of uses for an existing IPv4 network. In fact, it's likely that most of your internal, Intranet communications and operations can continue on IPv4 for many years to come.
But if you are planning to grow through the launch new networks, products, or web-based services, you must be prepared to transition to an IPv6 environment. That's because IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible. They do not speak to each other. Users on an IPv4 network cannot view or access information on an IPv6 network and vice versa. Sooner or later, much of the world will be on IPv6. As a result, when it comes to having an Internet presence abroad, staying on IPv4 (even if you could secure an IPv4 address) could be a huge mistake.
Think of it this way. A global organization that chooses to stay on IPv4 is similar to a Paris-based business that decides to communicate only in French. That's fine if you want to serve a small niche, but if you want to reach consumers or clients in China, Japan, the US, the UK, Germany, or Italy, you need to speak the language of your audience. Otherwise, you're limiting your ability to expand and communicate with your target markets. So if you are a global player, you need to transition to IPv6 in order to be visible to your customers, partners and stakeholders around the world. It's really that simple.
Three Key Tips
There are three tips to keep in mind as you consider your options and analyze your business needs related to IPv6:
The good news is that you are well in advance of the time when you will need IPv6 to interact with the world. From where we stand today, there is plenty of time to be proactive and to get ready for the change. In that one way IPv6 is a bit like Y2K: You know it's coming. . . if you can prepare for its arrival, then when it does come it can look and feel like any other ordinary day.
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