It’s easy to understand how one would be perplexed by the multitude of IPv6 deployment options and approaches. And depending on the extent of your network on which you plan to deploy IPv6 as well as the state of your current IPv4 network and computing environment, the task of IPv6 deployment may range from being quite straightforward to being very complicated.
To help you get started in determining where your environment lies on this complexity continuum, I’d propose the following steps to keep it SIMPLE! These steps may be iterative if you split your deployment into phases, but the same basic process should apply on each iteration:
Scope – The first step is to define the scope of your IPv6 deployment. For example, are you planning to implement IPv6 on Internet-facing infrastructure only or throughout your network? You may plan to implement IPv6 throughout your network eventually but decide to deploy in phases, starting with a small, controlled portion of your network to gain experience and test for any unanticipated side effects. It will likely also be more appealing from the perspective of resource requirements to start small then expand deployment as well.
Itemise – If you don’t already have complete computing and network inventory then you should perform network discovery of end user devices, servers, infrastructure, IP subnets and address assignments as well as address pools within your chosen scope. This should also include applications, databases, security and network management products, and those employee “bring your own devices” (BYODs).
Mitigate – From your itemised list of computing components, identify which are IPv6-ready and which require upgrading or replacement. The latter forms the start of your “to-do” list. Recent vintage routers, switches and device/server operating systems support IPv6 today but it is instructive to take inventory and verify this is the case. Most applications that do not embed IP addresses within screens, configuration files or packet payloads should work with IPv4 as well as IPv6 though this should be verified as well. You may also need to invest in new infrastructure; e.g., DHCPv6 servers, so identify required new items for your “to-do” list, and also consider your security and network management products.
Plan – Based on your defined mitigation tasks, i.e., your “to-do” list, which identifies what components need to be procured or updated, determine the respective costs and align with the budget process, phasing in any required purchases as the budget permits. Define your IPv6 address plan and identify any IPv4-IPv6 transition technologies you plan to use, such as dual-stack, tunneling and translation techniques. Update your security policy to incorporate IPv6 protection policies, as well as management and change control policies to account for IPv6. Plan for training for personnel involved in IPv6 implementation and support. Integrate all of these planning tasks into an integrated project plan and identify resources required, dependencies, and planning time frames.
Lab test – The plan should incorporate a testing phase prior to production deployment to verify IPv4-IPv6 operations. To the extent possible, include as many components as possible in the testing, including security and management systems. Identify any issues and update plans or work with respective vendors to resolve.
Execute and manage – With a solid plan in hand and successful lab testing, the probability of successful plan execution can be maximised. However, even the best plans cannot predict every possible error condition. Carefully manage the deployment in accordance with the plan, invoking contingencies as needed. Communicate feedback to all involved including management to provide status updates and issues. Monitor security logs and management systems to baseline network operation and to identify anomalous conditions.
These “simple” steps provide a broad guideline for the process of IPv6 deployment. In attempting to keep things simple, try to focus the project only on deploying IPv6, and not to “throw in” additional network initiatives at the same time. This can lead to unexpected outcomes and complexity in troubleshooting and resolving error conditions. Stay focused and keep it simple!
To find out how BT has been preparing for IPv6 click here.