Insights into the IPv6 transition

Oct. 7, 2010

At least twice a month, I receive a vendor pitching me on some article about how IPv6 is the greatest thing for IP since the invention of packets. More often than not, these pitches are usually from a consulting firm whose business specializes in making lots of money helping government organizations and companies ready themselves for IPv6.

What's IPv6? Oh, you know, it's the movement that is happening within the government to change to a new version of Internet Protocol, a.k.a. IP. The key mantra of this movement is that we're going to run out of IP addresses sometime last year. Oh wait, it's this year. Or maybe it's next year. Or could it be 10 years from now? It depends on who you ask and how much fear they're trying to create. The IPv6 technology moves to a 128-bit IP address from our current IPv4 32-bit addresses, which means it accommodates a much higher number of IP addresses, which really is a good thing since we are adding more and more addressable technologies to networks every day. Just take a look at the rise of IP video surveillance as an example. Or the concept that many standard appliances will be IP addressed in the future, as depicted in this great little cartoon from Doctor Fun:

Doctor Fun -- the brave new world of IPv6

There are also some security improvements claimed in IPv6. And mainly, the reason everyone pays attention is that the government is mandating this switch in their organizations' IT infrastructures.

First, please note that it doesn't mean the IP technology you are buying today or last year with IPv4 standards won't work. It will. It may require a little translation, even if sometimes companies claim that you can't translate those addresses at all. You will still hear this claim in the future, and it will still be inaccurate.

So, with all of this info floating around and a lot of biased expert opinions being touted, I found it highly interesting to read this blog post from General Electric's Director of Incident Response and author of the TaoSecurity blog Richard Bejtlich. In this post, Bejtlich really cuts through some of the myths and uncertainties of the push toward IPv6 in the federal government -- as he examines a memo from Federal CTO Vivek Kundra.

Read Bejtlich's IPv6 blog post here.