Operators challenged by IPv6

Tara Van Unen/Ixia
05 Jul 2011

Service providers are struggling to prepare their networks for the influx of IPv6 addresses.

With exponential growth in global broadband deployments, next-gen wireless rollouts on the horizon and fast-growing smartphone numbers, the industry is predicting an increase of five billion unique endpoints between 2010 and 2015.

While the internet is rich with IPv6 content and services – Google is already supporting IPv6 on its search, news, docs, maps and YouTube – IPv4 won’t just “go away.” That duality creates a challenging situation for service providers that must upgrade their network infrastructure to handle IPv4 and IPv6 co-existence.

While network cores are well-equipped for handling both IPv4 and IPv6, broadband access networks are not. Co-existence puts tremendous stress on the underlying network systems, which can potentially introduce latency, degrade network responsiveness, and compromise service level agreements.

The biggest transition concern is the impact on customers: will introducing IPv6 endpoints, forwarding tables, and services affect connectivity speed, service quality, and network reliability?

An abrupt transition of the legacy IPv4 infrastructure to IPv6 is not practical because most Internet services are still based on IPv4 and many customers are still running operating systems not fully compatible with IPv6. Service providers must support both IPv4 and IPv6 endpoints and services in order to guarantee the quality of service defined in their service level agreements.

There are different methods that can be used to achieve the goal across broadband access networks.

The easiest way to conserve the depleting IPv4 address space is to use translation so that the outward facing interface uses a public interface, while the private network uses IP addresses that are not routed on the Internet. However, the known performance and scalability issues compel most service providers to deploy either tunneling or dual-stack transition mechanisms in broadband access networks.

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