Let’s face it, the folks in enterprise IT have a tough job: Facilitating the cutting edge services, applications, and procedures that make today’s commerce and productivity possible, all while keeping IT costs low, data secure, and customers (both internal and external) delighted. Anything that inhibits effective management of the network and the IT resources relying on it is a potential threat to business continuity, agility, and competitive advantage. This responsibility is difficult enough given the traditional on-prem model of IT. But computing is evolving ever more rapidly. Virtualization and containerization, XaaS, next-generation hyper-scale data center, and the Internet of Things/Everything promise to maximally challenge the IT mandate in the years to come. Key to mastering these challenges is a deeper level of actionable network intelligence.
In the middle of all of this revolutionary and rapid change, we’ve run out of IPv4 addresses. ARIN completely exhausted their supply of IPv4 in September of 2015.
As a result, the entire network and systems operations practice is in the process of being reworked to include effective deployment and management of IPv6. The previous statement might sound controversial to those in IT that haven’t been paying close attention to IPv6 in recent years. But the data are unmistakable.
Over 25% of the traffic to Google in the US is over IPv6. That’s approximately 57 million users of IPv6 in the US alone. Worldwide, that percentage is over 11 percent and Cisco estimates that IPv6 traffic on the Internet will grow to over 50% in the next two years.
Let’s look at how IPv6 impacts three areas critical to IT in this evolving landscape:
- Next-generation Data Center
- Security and Compliance
- Digital Economy
Next-generation Data Center
Many enterprises are pursuing IT cost savings by building on-prem private clouds. But data center scale is impeded by reliance on IPv4. Even with private addressing (e.g., 10.0.0.0/8), data centers often end up contending with overlapping or insufficient IPv4 address space. This can result in frequent renumbering leading to downtime and additional operational costs.
IPv6 provides unlimited unique addressing for the data center eliminating the need to renumber based on the address scarcity in IPv4. Further, complicated network overlays or configurations to work around insufficient addressing can be reduced or eliminated. Whatever the topology of the data center, IPv6 allows for the allocation and assignment of consistently-sized and unique subnets with sufficient host addressing. Understanding and managing these IPv6 subnets will be critical to success in this area.
Security and Compliance
Many IT managers are surprised when they learn that IPv6 is already running on the network. All modern OSes have IPv6 enabled by default. In fact, IPv6 is a critical component of the Windows operating systems and can’t be disabled without being considered being out of scope for effective support from Microsoft.
That means that IT should be managing and tracking the IPv6 that’s running on the network today. But many organizations lack the tools to do this effectively. As a result, IPv6 has blown a big hole in their security policy and likely their compliance as well. Enterprises need to make sure they have the right tools in place to effectively track and secure IPv6 traffic and end nodes.
Given that there are 57 million IPv6 users in the US alone, enterprises shouldn’t take any chances when ensuring that online access and user experience for these users will be exactly the same as it is for IPv4 users.
Because IPv4 and IPv6 are not backwards-compatible, the translation required between them may cause performance issues or even outages. An enterprise that doesn’t make its websites and online content available over IPv6 may find itself at a disadvantage with its competitors for the tens of millions (and rapidly-accelerating number) of IPv6 users.
Networks are changing rapidly and relying more and more on IPv6. Managing IPv6 effectively will require the same access to actionable network intelligence that’s needed for IPv4. It’s critically important for enterprises to accelerate the process of deliberately adopting IPv6. The Infoblox IPv6 Center of Excellence offers many resources to help. There’s also an interactive online tool called 6MAP that gets you started with your IPv6 addressing plan. It’s free and easy-to-use and will help you make immediate progress with your IPv6 adoption initiative.
If you’re not already registered for Bloxfest, Infoblox’s first customer conference being held from May 17th-19th in Boston, it’s not too late to register today. As the site says: “Bloxfest is an intense learning and sharing experience for IT professionals committed to building world-class networks and security infrastructure. For three days in Boston, we will explore trends, technologies, and techniques you need to know to help your business succeed. Experts including “Mr. DNS” Cricket Liu and “World’s Most Famous Hacker” Kevin Mitnick will deliver keynotes.”
I’ll be there leading a track session on IPv6 in the Enterprise (with my Infoblox IPv6 CoE TAB colleagues Scott Hogg and Ed Horley) as well as giving away signed copies of my O’Reilly book IPv6 Address Planning. Hopefully, I’ll see you there!