“You hear that? That is the sound of inevitability…” – Agent Smith, The Matrix.
You will migrate to IPv6. It is happening. You will not be able to resist. The IANA gave out the last IPv4 allocations on 2/1/2011. There are no more. As I write, the RIR’s will completely run out of IPv4 addresses within days. Not years, not months …days.
For years, corporate America has resisted IPv6. It has been a passive resistance. Something analogous to Ostriches with heads buried snugly in the sand. Many of us have heard the rhetoric surrounding IPv6. A few of us have even listened …a little bit. But the reality is that most of us are paying the same amount of attention to the harbingers of IPv6 that we pay to the disheveled looking guy on the street wearing a “The End is Near” sign on his chest. You give him a wide berth, shake your head in disdain to show that you too realize that he has lost his grip on reality. He is confused, disillusioned. “Poor fool”, you think. If only he were to look around and see that everything is fine. The end is not near. Everything is working. Things are comfortable, familiar and right.
Sometimes things are broken. And even though they are broken we learn to live with them. We tape them together and add extra screws and supports to make them stay put. We patch them up so they function and, over time, we tend to forget that they’re not really right. We’ve got the thing working and the patch we made starts to feel normal. We adapt and become quite adept at using broken tools. Over a really long time we begin to think that the patches are normal; that it’s the right way to put things together. Using this point it is my regretful duty to inform you that your current IPv4 networking implementation is, in many ways, broken. It has been broken for so long that we don’t even realize it. In fact, unless you’ve been around for a VERY long time you were probably taught the broken way of implementaiton from day one. We have been doing it for a long time now. I know this to be true because I am the teacher. I have been teaching people how IP works for years. I teach IP-based network implementation, IP-based network design and security and I teach IP-based network troubleshooting. And, for the most part, I have been teaching people how to build and maintain IPv4 networks using duct tape and popsicle sticks. I have been teaching it this way because it’s really the only practical way to do it. IPv4, you see, isn’t supposed to be here. We outgrew it long ago. We grew so fast that we didn’t have a chance to do it right. We found workarounds and patches to allow IP to continue to work for us even as we outgrew it. Those workarounds are things that many of us think of as normal. Classful IP Addressing, Network and Port Address Translation (NAT & PAT), Private IP Addressing and UDP-encapsulated IPSec VPN traffic (to name a few) are all afterthoughts; workarounds to allow an address space to function in a world where it was quickly becoming obsolete. The problem with all of these things that I accuse of being broken is that they actually work; they provide a measure of functionality that has allowed them to overstay their welcome and lull many of us into submission, thinking that everything is working as it should.
If you are comfortable with the status quo and are resisting IPv6, actively or passively, you are missing the single biggest IT opportunity you will ever have. I seriously mean that. Take a moment and think about your organization and all the ones for which you have worked before. Were they models of efficiency with systems and solutions only put in place after careful comtemplation, expert design and lengthy testing? Or did they start out with good intentions only to get lost in the day-to-day grind, becoming a patchwork quilt of compromises, workarounds and disabled features? Those who identify with the latter are in the majority. Few of us have ever been able to build a network from scratch. It is an uncommon opportunity. But with IPv6, virtually every shop on the planet gets a fresh slate, a chance to do it right. As of this moment you still have the ability to carefully design and deploy your IPv6 network. You have this chance only for a limited amount of time. Soon the pace of IPv6 will begin to accelerate faster than any of us anticipate. You will wake up one day and find yourself behind everyone else. You will enter into panic mode and you will deploy IPv6 quickly without the necessary time devoted to planning and design. You will have lost your opportunity. Don’t let it happen. Get smart about IPv6 now. The migration is underway.