I’m very pleased to let our readers know about a recent white paper we produced in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire. The title of the white paper is Assigning and Managing IPv6 Addresses in Higher Education Environments and it’s available here.
As the paper relates, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) is the state’s biggest institute of higher learning and public research. It has campuses in Manchester, Durham, and Concord with over 17,000 students and 1,000 faculty. A recent wireless network upgrade provided the IT team with an opportunity to both roll out IPv6 as well as to improve their IP address management practice in the process.
UNH’s IT Internet director Scott Kitterman has had his eye on IPv6 for many years: “We support all aspects of higher education at the University of New Hampshire and part of our commitment to our community is to provide up-to-date tools, services, and capabilities that will allow them to learn, teach, and be ready to make a difference in their prospective fields of work. The use of IPv6 over the local-area networks and the Internet is only going to grow and people, consumers, and maintainers of networks need to have access to it to experience the benefits ofmodern networks.”
And IPv6 thought leaders like Scott aren’t the only reason UNH is uniquely suited to drive IPv6 efforts for enterprise networks: The university is also home to what is arguably the world’s premier IPv6 interoperability lab, which many vendors (including Infoblox) use for independent validation of both the interoperability and protocol conformance of their IPv6 features.
One of the key challenges facing any enterprise deploying IPv6 is how to best track address and prefix assignments. For instance, administrators expect functional parity of addresses assigned to individual hosts through DHCP, whether IPv4, IPv6, or dual-stack. The assignment of globally-routable IPv6 addresses (as opposed to the IPv6 RFC1918 equivalent of unique local addressing) is considered standard, even for enterprise, but more critically the interface identifier (IID) can be a source of transcription or reading errors given that an IID can be up to 16 hexadecimal characters — especially where EUI-64 formatting is the result of running stateless DHCPv6 (though in practice stateful DHCPv6 ranges are most often manually defined and as such usually result in a much shorter IID).
Along those same lines, the allocation of IPv6 prefixes can be problematic — especially when IT staff are less familiar with the syntax of IPv6 addressing. Infoblox IPAM capabilities also make it easier to demonstrate and explain the IPv6 address plan to others in the IT organization — even outside the networking team, such as system and application administrators. According to Kitterman: “The big win is that, through Infoblox, IPv6 address planning and delegation become easier than growing out an existing IPv4 IP management scheme that has grown over a few decades. It is a great time to get a clean refresh on the network design. Not only does Infoblox make it easy to create an IPv6 address plan, it offers sanity checks through the IPAM features as network blocks are divided just the same as in IPv4, which is a huge bonus while UNH is planning and preparing for the IoT boom and wireless growth.”
Educational enterprises like UNH — but also those in other verticals such as manufacturing, health care, and financial services — are moving in ever greater numbers to adopt IPv6. Along the way, they’re learning what Kitterman learned about IPv6 at UNH: “We did this, and others can as well, by starting in a small controlled environment. Getting started did not take much time or effort. Building out from the very confined test network into the enterprise has beena progressive and steady evolution. IPv6 is not going to be any harder than IPv4 in current environments.”
You don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) wait for an infrastructure upgrade project to tackle IPv6 deployment for your enterprise. And regardless of which vertical your enterprise is in, a big first step to enabling IPv6 is getting an IPv6 allocation — either from your ISP or directly from the Regional Internet Registry. In my next blog post, I’ll review the process of obtaining an IPv6 allocation.