IPv6 migration hits CIO radar

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IT managers have been advised to ensure forthcoming network kit purchases support the next generation of the internet protocol after the European Commission (EC) announced plans to force the pace of migration to IPv6.

The EC set out proposals earlier this week to ensure that a quarter of European businesses, public sector bodies and households are using IPv6 by 2010.

The EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding insisted that the number of IP addresses that can be allocated using IPv4 will soon be exhausted. She warned that if Europeans are to make full use of devices such as smart tags and sat-nav systems “then we already face a thousand-fold increase in demand for IP addresses”.

IPv4 uses a 32bit address space that gives 4.3 billion unique IP addresses, whereas IPv6’s 128bit address space is capable of supporting multiple billions more.

IPv6 should be on IT leaders’ radars, said Butler Group analyst Mark Blowers. “I don’t think they should rush out and change things immediately, but if you’re a network manager who’s buying any equipment in the future, you should at least make sure any kit you buy can handle both IPv4 and IPv6,” he added.

Given the EC’s plans to accelerate IPv6 adoption, firms should undertake some form of impact assessment, advised Quocirca principal analyst Rob Bamforth. “Once a business has an understanding of the impact it can then make plans, cost them out and work on funding and execution,” he said.

However, there is a risk that business colleagues will regard the whole issue as “Y2K 2.0”, Bamforth added.

“There is so little business benefit to show for all the work – at least in the short term – that those in the business holding the purse strings will probably be wondering what all the fuss is about,” he explained.

Nevertheless, European officials are getting increasingly twitchy about migration to IPv6. The EC noted that global competitors such as Japan have already rolled out a public IPv6 backbone.

Reding’s call comes a week after an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report on IPv6 concluded that the ability to scale the internet to connect billions of people and devices would be a major challenge for governments.
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