IP Addresses on Endangered List: Page 2

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Why Wait?

To date, the only major U.S. organization that has enthusiastically embraced IPv6 is the Department of Defense. Since accurate information is so vital to their mission, it’s no surprise that the military has jumped at the chance to link every piece of equipment they own in a vast, always-connected network.

But why haven’t more organizations jumped on the IPv6 bandwagon?

“Frankly,” says researcher Dan Kaminsky, “It’s something of a pain to deploy.”

It’s “simple human nature,” adds IPv6 Forum Fellow Tony Hain. “Ignore the problem until it becomes a crisis—then react to resolve it.”

By all accounts, the U.S. has more than its fair share of Internet addresses—approximately 30 percent of the total. China, by comparison, has approximately 2 percent to serve a much larger population. As a result, America has not been under the same pressure as other parts of the world. In fact, Asian countries, particularly China, Japan, and Korea, are well ahead of the United States in the IPv6 transition, causing some understandable hand-wringing among U.S. politicians.

Unfortunately, hand-wringing hasn’t been enough to convince U.S. organizations to upgrade their networks. Instead, they’ve developed patchwork solutions, such as Network Address Translation (NAT) devices, which allow more than one user to connect through the same address. And while NAT has proven a fairly effective stop-gap measure, it’s also introduced further layers of complexity and made the Internet more fragile.

The fundamental issue may come down to money. The NIST report estimates that the IPv6 transition will cost $25 billion, spread out over 25 years. Those costs come from three main areas: equipment replacement, application rewrites, and staff retraining.

Companies can minimize those costs by purchasing IPv6-compatible equipment during their regular hardware refresh cycle. In fact, because networking equipment manufacturers have been making dual-compatible devices for several years, most companies probably already have some IPv6-ready hardware, whether or not they realize it. And if they upgrade to Windows Vista, they’ll also have an IPv6-ready OS, whether they realize it or not.

Enter Vista

Buried among all the hoopla about the Windows Vista interface and flashy new features is Vista’s IPv6 support. Microsoft built Vista with what they call the “Next Generation TCP/IP Stack” that utilizes both IPv4 and IPv6.

“Windows will be both IPv4- and IPv6-capable out of the box. This means that every computer running Windows Vista will be able to communicate across IPv4 and IPv6 networks at the same time,” writes Geesey. “This dual-IP layer approach will allow organizations to save money and resources by transitioning their organization's infrastructure to IPv6 over time without worrying about interoperability issues with their workstations.”

While some have worried that Vista will overwhelm the DNS system by transmitting both IPv4 and IPv6 information, most experts seem to believe that Vista will help ease the IPv6 transition rather than causing more glitches.

Windows Vista will “smooth out the upheaval by inserting the IPv6 technology into the majority of end systems without explicit effort by the system administrator,” says Hain.

Kaminsky adds, “In Vista, quite a bit of IPv6 ‘just works.’ That's rather cool. [Problems caused by IPv4] are not going away. If Vista (and Longhorn Server) can clean that mess up, that's nothing but good.”

Next page: What’s Next?

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