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Network equipment tester says players need to maintain IPv4, IPv6-compatible infrastructure for at least the next decade.

Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprises upgrading their networks to IPv6 are likely to incur costs running into hundreds of millions of dollars, warns network testing specialist Ixia.

Industry players are under pressure to ensure their infrastructure is compatible with the new Internet protocol, which is due to launch in June to meet demand for new IP addresses.

IPv6's predecessor IPv4 ran out of new addresses at the end of January 2011. Once ISPs have distributed their remaining IPv4 addresses they won't be able to connect new devices to their networks. It isn't just ISPs that are gearing up for the changeover either. Major Web players including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, have all pledged to upgrade to IPv6 by the June 2012 deadline.

"They have a ticking clock," Tara Van Unen, director of market development at Ixia, told Total Telecom this week.

She claimed that ISPs and enterprises will need to maintain what are known as dual-stack networks, which can support both IPv4 and IPv6, for at least the next decade.

However, "it's pretty difficult to transition to a dual-stack IPv6/IPv4 [network]," she warned. "In a lot of these cases you can't just do this as a software upgrade, it's a hardware upgrade.

"If you're going to dual-stack every piece of equipment... [costs will] easily move into hundreds of millions [of dollars]," she said.

In the meantime ISPs can use solutions such as translation - converting data from one protocol to another – or tunnelling techniques, which effectively disguise IPv6 data packets as IPv4 and vice versa.

"[IP]v4 and [IP]v6 don't interoperate... They need a way to tunnel that traffic." Unen said. "It's kind of a quick and dirty way of giving IPv6 access."

"Dual-stack implementation is the end goal," she said. "But it's expensive for the operator because they have to upgrade every piece of equipment."

Unen predicted that while upgrading their equipment to be compatible with the new protocols, players are likely to look at improving their infrastructure at the same time.

Although, "not all enterprises are going to migrate to IPv6 at the same time," she said. "It's impossible."
 

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