How to start planning your IPv6 transition

What IT managers need to know about IPv6 today

By Josh Stephens, SolarWinds - Whether you realize it or not, you probably already have IPv6 traffic on your network. Not learning how to effectively deploy, manage and secure this traffic would be a huge mistake.

Here's what you need to know -- and do -- to start your transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

Understanding IPv6

First and foremost, you are going to need to educate yourself on the technology and get into full-blown learning mode. There are numerous classes and seminars that will get you ahead of the curve quickly; this will provide you with the basis you need to fully understand the technologies around IPv6 and how to manage them correctly. One of my favorite events is the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Summit.

If books are your learning tool of choice, a couple of good ones are: IPv6 Essentials and IPv6 Security.

This is also a good time to brush up on your fundamentals. I come across my fair share of network engineers who have been getting by without really understanding the underlying technologies. When you decide to start migrating to or adding IPv6 to your network, you really need to have the proper fundamentals first or you will be headed for some really tough times.

Know what you have

The next step is an essential one: you need to conduct an audit. You should have a good idea what you already have on the network, but it’s always good to recheck your hardware and software on a regular basis. It’s essential to know what you already have that is IPv6 compliant and what isn’t. If you attempt to make the move straight over to IPv6 without evaluating, you are not only wasting your time, but could bring down your data center like a house of cards.

Once you complete the audit, you can begin upgrading. For me, I know that I learn best by doing, so you should roll up your sleeves and start working with what you have learned. We already know that we will be faced with a hybrid solution that will be a marriage of IPv4 and IPv6 within our own networks. You should set up test beds within your own network and start migrating a few things into a joint IPv4/IPv6 or “dual stack” solution. You spend some good quality time under the hood in a closed environment and it should become second nature in no time.

Start rolling it out!

A great place to start investigating your IPv6 capabilities is within DNS, as we know it’s one of the core technologies that every network engineer should understand and it won’t do you much good to bring IPv6 addresses into your network if you can’t resolve them to names and vice versa.

Another great place to deploy an early IPv6 network is a “management network” or “telemetry network,” as we used to call them in the old days. Network Address Translation (NAT) can be a real burden when it comes to monitoring devices in duplicate or overlapping address ranges, so this may be a great place for you to start moving to IPv6.

While migration to IPv6 won’t happen overnight, it’s time for you to wrap your mind around all things related to it and come up with a plan to ensure that you are able to roll everything out smoothly.

I hope this tip helps you on your journey to IPv6.

Josh Stephens is Head Geek and VP of Technology at SolarWinds

See also:
IPv6 basics: Getting started with IPv6
What You Need to Know about IPv6
Avoiding the pitfalls when transitioning to IPv6

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