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Controlling your migration to IPv6: a gateway to tomorrow.

F5 Networks Inc.

Organizations of all types are feeling increasing pressure to migrate from the well-known and universal Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) standard to the newer IPv6 standard. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which are the limited number of addresses available in the IPv4 system and the increasing number of devices requiring access to the "new" Internet: your coffee pot, TV, alarm clock and car, to mention a few. The IPv6 standard also includes many important new features, such as increased security and reliability. However, the world at large runs on IPv4.

With the exception of Internet2, which is not open to commercial access, the Internet we are all familiar with is currently only available as IPv4. In order to achieve IPv6 compliance, many governmental organizations have received mandates to migrate their systems and help drive the worldwide adoption of IPv6.

The Migration Challenge

The problem is that the entire world will not switch to IPv6 at the same time, nor will many organizations be able to simply flip a switch and decide that all applications and all equipment will suddenly be IPv6 instead of IPv4. What organizations need is a smart migration plan and the tools to help provide an orderly transition between the two standards. This tool should be able to seamlessly operate in both the IPv4 network as well as the IPv6 network with impunity and give the organization the freedom to test, move, and migrate its existing infrastructure at a controlled and manageable pace. That tool is the BIG-IP[R] Local Traffic Manager[TM].(LTM) from F5 Networks.

A Gateway for Transition

The F5 BIG-IP LTM is most known for load balancing, high availability, and even its SSL-processing capabilities. Lesser known are its capabilities for compression, caching, rate-shaping, and the fact that it can function as an IPv4 to IPv6 gateway--operating identically in either environment and within mixed environments.

This last capability is ideal for organizations that are either actively planning for or anticipating an IPv4 to IPv6 transition. The typical BIG-IP LTM deployment has the BIG-IP LTM device between the clients and the servers to provide the applications the clients use. In this way, the BIG-IP LTM device can provide virtualization and high availability functions, making several physical servers look like a single entity. However, even if you don't have multiple servers providing applications, the BIG-IP LTM device can still provide services for the servers behind it. In this case, the virtualization capability provides an opportunity to start migrating either clients or servers to IPv6 networks without having to change everything all at once.

Migration Strategies: Scenarios

There are two equally possible scenarios in a smooth, controlled migration strategy. You can either attempt to migrate the clients to IPv6 while keeping the servers on IPv4, or you can attempt to migrate the servers to IPv6 while leaving the clients in an IPv4 environment. On the one hand, moving the clients to IPv6 involves potentially touching every single client device and incorporating new DHCP services and DNS services. It also requires that the clients remaining one), reconfigure the server for IPv6, and move it to the IPv6 network. Then re-add the server to the original load balancing pool with its IPv6 address instead of the old IPv4 address.

Your clients now have their requests load-balanced across one IPv4 server and one IPv6 server.

To complete the process, simply bring down the remaining IPv4 server (while the clients continue to use the IPv6 server) and move it to a new IPv6 address. Once you are done, your IPv4 clients will be using IPv6 servers--and you have completed the entire server migration with no downtime.

If you continue in this fashion, you should be able to easily create a network where your client systems continue to use IPv4, but all of your servers are running on the new IPv6 network. The clients will not recognize that there is anything different, as they are still contacting and using the IPv4 virtual server being serviced by BIG-IP LTM to access the applications.

Migrating Clients

It is important to note that you can use this same technique to move your clients to IPv6 without changing the servers. In this case, you create a client-facing IPv6 interface with a new IPv6 virtual server that points to the same IPv4 servers as me original IPv4 virtual. Then, as you move clients to the new IPv6 client network, the new IPv6 DNS processes can 'hand out" the new IPv6 IP address of the virtual server, using the same DNS name that used to point to the IPv4 address. Again, by using the same host name and same back-end servers, in most cases the clients will be able to start using their old applications as if nothing changed.

Flexibility with BIG-IP LTM

Of course, it is never that simple, but BIG-IP LTM gives you the flexibility to migrate services and clients at your organization's own pace. If some applications can't be moved or don't support IPv6, you can leave them as IPv4 until they are replaced (assuming your organization will be required to use all IPv6 or retired. In the same manner, clients that still need to maintain their IPv4 identity can either be dual-homed (IPv4 and IPv6) or can simply access your company's IPv6 network via BIG-IP LTM IPv4 interface. The virtualization capabilities of BIG-IP LTM make this possible.

Beijing Olympics The Perfect Test-bed For IPv6, Claims F5

F5 Networks Inc. The Application Delivery Networking company urges organisations considering their future network investments to pay close attention to the success of the imminent Beijing Olympics, as it will be unveiling IPv6 technologies, a technology that will see much wider adoptions over the coming few years as IPv4 starvation continues to put pressure on the ever increasing growth of internet users.

Under mounting pressure from its growing population, which currently totals more than 1.3 billion, the Chinese government transitioned from IPv4 to IPv6 as part of its Next Generation Internet (CNGI) initiative in 2004, putting it at the forefront of technological innovation and years ahead of many of its Western counterparts. IPv6 provides much greater functionality, with its primary benefit being its increased addressing capacity to 128-bits compared to IPv4's 32-bit addresses. Its 2^128 unique IP addresses far exceeds the IPv4 offerings of 4.3 billion.

Owen Cole, Technical Director UK&I, F5 comments: 'This is a very interesting time as we watch Internet networking evolve at a huge pace, and technologies emerge such as IPv6. However, to date there has been a mixed reception to IPv6. Whilst the European Commission has set out strict proposals to ensure a quarter of all European businesses, public-sector bodies and consumers are running on IPv6 by 2010, there still stands a reluctance to implement the necessary technologies to allow for the 'switch-over'.

"The Beijing Olympics will give thousands of IT decision makers around the world insight into IPv6's capabilities, as a selection of new technologies and applications are to be unveiled, including offering viewers high-quality live video streaming."

Cole concludes: "A smart migration plan involving tools which operate in both the IPv4 and IPv6 network environments with impunity will give organisations the freedom to test, move and migrate its existing infrastructures through a controlled pace and should be adopted now to fall in line with the EU proposal of 2010."

For more information on F5's approach to IPv6 migration, visit:

For specific information on F5's IPv6 feature module, visit:
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Publication:Software World
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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