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Getting at the real truth about IPv6

Carolyn Duffy Marsan | July 18, 2011
Is 2012 the year to invest in IPv6? That's what CIOs want to know as they plan their IT budgets for the next fiscal year.

CIOs with smaller Web sites are likely to choose an easier approach: Adding an appliance such as a proxy, gateway or NAT device to convert IPv6 traffic into IPv4 for accessing IPv4-based content. With these appliances, companies don't have to upgrade their Web server infrastructures but they will need to upgrade their network perimeter and routing infrastructure to support IPv6 and they may need to support transit peering for IPv6.

The appliance approach is gaining popularity. Brocade uses its ServerIron ADX Server Load Balancer and Blue Coat uses its IPv6 Secure Web Gateway to support IPv6 on their Web sites. For World IPv6 Day, Cisco used its prototype ACE Session Load Balancer, Juniper used its translator-in-the-cloud offering and A10 used its AX Series appliances.
An enterprise can expect to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars deploying these appliances at the front-end of their Web sites to support IPv6, depending on the scale of their Web sites.

Using A10's AX Series Appliances with Server Load Balancing-Protocol Translation to support IPv6 on a corporate Web site will cost a company "anywhere from $15,000 to $200,000, depending on the performance that they need," says Paul Nicholson, A10's director of product marketing.

An alternative is for CIOs to outsource their Web content delivery to a service provider like Akamai or Limelight Networks, both of which are developing commercial-grade IPv6 based services in the cloud. DNS and hosting providers also may provide these translation services for IT departments on an outsourced basis.

Limelight has been working on IPv6 adoption since 2008 and has offered a commercial-grade IPv6 CDN service since 2009.

"We have a massive infrastructure: Tens of thousands of servers, just south of 10 terabits of egress capacity, hundreds of [Border Gateway Protocol] peers and tremendously complex routing policies to support that," says Tom Coffeen, director of Global Network Architecture at Limelight. "The scale of the challenge for us is very, very large. The relatively long adoption process served us well when World IPv6 Day rolled along."

Limelight's CDN delivered hundreds of thousands of Web objects and honored hundreds of thousands of client requests over IPv6 on World IPv6 Day. Coffeen says the success of Limelight's IPv6 offering on World IPv6 Day demonstrates that the CDN is ready for an influx of enterprise customers in 2012.

So what's the risk for CIOs that decide to do nothing about IPv6 in 2012? Your online presence may not be reachable by a growing number of customers around the world, experts say.

"The risk is that you are lights out for your customers," Hankins says. "The risk is that you are off the Internet to a small but growing population."

And that's a risk that few CIOs are likely to take given that it's relatively inexpensive to fix the problem using an appliance-based approach or a CDN.

"My advice to CIOs is to begin to do the migration and to begin their lab trials," says Qing Li, chief scientist at Blue Coat Systems. "This month, we have one of our largest financial customers coming to Blue Coat to get IPv6 training. We're talking to them about how to do IPv6 security, how to set up your infrastructure so there is IPv4 and IPv6 co-existence, and how to get application performance over both network types."


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