The Transition from IPv4 to IPv6: Advantages, Steps, and Tools

The internet is undergoing a complex transition to IPv6, providing long-term global and enterprise-level benefits. Various businesses and technical service providers understand the importance of moving to IPv6. That’s the reason big companies such as Google, Amazon, and Yahoo and the providers such as Telcom, NTT, Comcast, and Telstra have migrated to dual-stack implementation systems. On the other hand, Microsoft, T-Mobile, AARNet, and CERNET have also migrated to IPv6 due to the benefits it offers. However, meeting the requirements of migration from IPv4 to IPv6 needs an inventory of IP addresses/devices and vital DHCP and DNS resources used in organizations. Tools like SolarWinds® IP Address Manager can help DevOps teams find available addresses quickly. Let’s understand the difference between IPv4 and IPv6.

IPv4 vs. IPv6

Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) is the fourth version of the Internet Protocol, which is used to identify IP addresses on a network. It’s explicitly designed for use in interconnected systems. It uses a 32-bit numeric addressing scheme separated by a period. It allows around 4 billion IP addresses for devices such as smartphones, computers, and gaming consoles to use to connect to the internet.

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the latest and the sixth version of Internet Protocol deployed to fulfill the need to connect more IP addresses to the internet. It helps identify devices across the internet for smooth communication. IPv6 is complex as it requires more address space; however, it’s a widely adopted Internet Protocol. IPv6 uses 128-bits consisting of four characters and eight number strings separated by a colon. It gives 340 undecillion IP addresses, which is a considerable number and assures organizations won’t run out of IP address spaces anytime soon.

The benefits of IPv6 are huge and far-reaching. However, they may vary from enterprise to enterprise based on their requirements, size, and structure. Let’s understand the benefits of migration from IPv4 to IPv6.

IPv4 to IPv6: Advantages of Migration

Makes Routing Efficient

IPv6 helps make routing more efficient and hierarchical by reducing the routing table size. With the help of ISPs, IPv6 assembles the prefixes of various customer networks and introduces them to IPv6 internet as one common prefix. This makes the process faster and productive. In IPv6 networks, the source device uses a protocol to discover different paths of Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU), so fragmentation can easily be taken care of.

End-to-End Transparency

Multiple levels of network address translators cause network slowdowns and prevent users from tracing illegal activities, making troubleshooting difficult. IPv6 addresses each node to ensure better performance and security.

Faster Packet Processing

IPv6 uses a packet header, which simplifies the packet processing. Unlike IPv4, which uses a header checksum to detect errors in the header of the IPv4 packet, IPv6 does not consist of a header checksum. The link-layer technologies and transport layers consist of error-control capabilities, so there’s no need to have multiple checksums in different places. This saves time and makes packet processing extremely efficient.

Security

Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is a network protocol suite for providing security, encryption, and confidentiality to data packets. Although IPSec functions in a similar way to both IPv6 and IPv4, site-to-site mode supported in IPv6 is the only way to get the data packets to pass through it.

Quick Data Flows

IPv6 uses multicast in place of broadcast. With multicast, packets of data can be sent to multiple destinations faster. This helps save network bandwidth. Moreover, IPv6 uses Flow Label to identify whether the lost packets belong to the exact flow.

Steps to Migrate From IPv4 to IPv6

IPv6 Budget Analysis

Before migrating from IPv4 to IPv6, the most important elements to consider are the budget and how much the organization will benefit with this transition in terms of cost. Cost analysis allows teams to make informed decisions about the usage of resources for the project and the management capabilities at all levels while implementation is happening.

Evaluation of Readiness Through Assessments

Having in-depth knowledge of IPv4 addresses used in the network and applications and DNS mapping is crucial. This assessment helps the organization to evaluate whether the current DNS provider and infrastructure devices will support the IPv6 transition.

Upgradation of Unsupported IPv6 Devices

Each device that doesn’t support IPv6 needs to be documented. Management should make a decision regarding device upgrades to support IPv6. It’s the most critical step in the IPv6 transition.

Plan Migration

Once the analysis is over, organizations need to determine if they’re willing to make a complete transition to IPv6 or if a dual-stack implementation makes more sense. A dual-stack implementation helps organizations migrate gradually from IPv4 to IPv6. Although a dual-stack increases complexity, it’s better for small and medium-sized businesses: it helps them complete the transition slowly and allows specific devices to roll back to IPv4 if there are migration issues.

How to Find Resources and IP Addresses for IPv6 Migration

screenshot of solarwinds ip address manager showing ip conflicts and events

SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM) helps organizations centralize and manage IP addresses with unified DNS and DHCP administration. It helps prevent IP conflicts and view subnets and segment subnets without the need to create a Network View. It centrally monitors zones and records of Azure DNS and Amazon Route 53. The tool offers API support for two-way integration. It also enables automated provisioning of virtual machines using integrations such as vRealize Orchestrator and VMware.

Features include:

  • Integrated DHCP and DNS configuration management
  • IPv4 and IPv6 address management
  • Infoblox monitoring
  • API support
  • Monitoring and alerting
  • IP conflict detection resource
  • Role-based administration
  • Integrated endpoint tracking

Deploy SolarWinds IPAM to create real-time IP address maps of your network by quickly fetching data from router configurations and connected devices. SolarWinds offers a free 30-day trial of IPAM, so you can see if this is the best tool to help you manage IPv4 to IPv6 migration.