Inside IPv6

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Changeover to IPv6

The transition to IPv6 will require hardware and software upgrades. Routers, network switches and many network interface devices may need to be replaced or upgraded. Fortunately, many manufacturers can provide the upgrades through firmware and/or software upgrades. Most of the new versions of operation systems, such as Vista, Mac and Linux, already have the IPv6 client. You can get the network clients for most older versions of these OS from the manufacturer. These network clients install and configure easily and, in most cases, are independent of the IPv4 client, so compatibility across a network should not be affected.

The real challenge will be to make sure your entire network is capable of passing both IPv4 and IPv6 packets. Any device not properly upgraded will likely prevent IPv6 packets to pass, which would tend to isolate IPv6 traffic to only a portion of your network. While it is possible (and probably necessary) for the two protocols to work in the same network, you will need to pay particular attention to how they will coexist in an on-demand/streaming environment such as that originating from digital audio/video servers and workstations.

To make the transition easier, the Network Working Group publishes a document called Basic Transition Mechanisms for IPv6 Hosts and Routers, or RFC 4213, that describes different methods to make the transition to IPv6. Essentially it describes three primary methods: Dual Stack, Tunneling and Translation.

Dual stack is simply a method where an additional software client supporting the IPv6 protocol is loaded to the device. This may be a software or firmware upgrade. You are familiar with this from loading different network clients on your PC. There might also be a new client written that supports both IPv4 and IPv6 in a single client.

Internet Resources

IP tunneling is a method that encapsulates a packet and allows it to be routed to a specific destination, essentially creating a dedicated pipeline or tunnel from two points. As it turns out, this is also a very efficient method to carry IPv6 packets over IPv4 networks. The IPv6 packet is encapsulated within an IPv4 packet at the entry point. When the packet reaches the destination, the IPv6 packet is stripped. The configuration information is maintained at the destination. This is called configured tunneling.

Translation is a method that uses an external black box to handle the exchange of packets.

The abundance of available addresses will finally make it possible to have direct access to individual devices tied to any network with relative ease. At the station level, implementing IPv6 should be relatively easy, providing you take the time to survey and evaluate each device connected to your network. Make sure you contact the manufacturer of any digital audio system or other IP-based equipment to find out what upgrades are required to support an IPv6 infrastructure. If your equipment is older and not going to be supported, don't worry. Realistically, you have some time before an upgrade to IPv6 will be needed, but make sure you provide for replacing that equipment in the next capital budget. If you are part of a larger group, the IT department will probably publish a timeline showing how the organization will migrate to IPv6, but it wouldn't hurt to ask the question if you haven't received any notices.

McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.

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