Monday, September 14, 2009

Time for IPv6?

It is Fiscal Year 2010 budget time at my company.  We have just completed a rather expensive three-year cycle of hardware upgrades, so it is refreshing to look at the modest capital costs I am requesting for 2010.  Of course, depreciation is eating up a significant portion of our budget for the next couple of years, so I would be hesitant to ask for a large allocation this year anyway.

Every year since I started with my current employer, my potential project list begins with “Implement IPv6”.  And every year, I quickly move it to the following year’s potential project list.  While I pondered it a split-second longer this time around, I still moved it to the 2011 list.  I see no compelling reason to foist a new protocol on my employer over the next 12 – 16 months.

Please understand, I’m not dense when it comes to the need for IPv6 in the world.  I am able to comprehend IPv4 address exhaustion (I read Geoff Huston’s excellent blog at, and I see the benefits to IPv6.  In 2000, I successfully argued that it was in my (then) employer’s best interest to pay for my purchase of an IPv6 book, so I could digest the information and teach my consulting co-workers how to plan for the protocol.  “It can be a differentiator!” I explained.  Is there a more perfect project for the PDIM cycle? (Plan, Design, Implement, Manage, or feel free to substitute your own consulting methodology)  Much of the information in that book became obsolete, and I’m fairly certain I recycled it years ago.

So why not this year?  In brief, one of the following things must happen for me to push forward with an IPv6 project:

- A compelling application is released that requires or would benefit from IPv6.  Definitely not a reality yet.  I’m holding out hope that VMWare will realize that VMotion and IPv6 Mobile IP are a nice match.  So far, I haven’t heard anything.  (I really want to spend some time developing my thoughts on this into a coherent blog post)

- Our customers start clamoring for it.  We expect this to happen in our ASPAC businesses eventually, but nothing yet.  Maybe I’m naive, but I am confident that IPv6 users will have gateways into the IPv4 world.  After all, who would be willing to sign up with an ISP that can’t reach the ‘real’ Internet?  Even the then-mighty AOL had to abandon that business model is the 90s.

- Our business partners require it.  We’re in a regulated industry, so there is a fair amount of government and quasi-government involvement.  I assume they will be the first business partners to move to IPv6, but I have even heard of any inquiries about out IPv6 status.

To generalize, we’re not a bleeding edge infrastructure company.  We would not derive any benefit from being a first mover.  I like new technology as much as the next guy, but I have a responsibility to make logical, defensible recommendations to my business leaders.  That’s why “Implement IPv6” is moving to the 2011 project list.  Of course, I’m hedging my bet by including a “Verify IPv6 Compatibility” project on the 2010 list, just like last year, and the year before that, etc.  It’s a low-cost project, and if the need for IPv6 comes on suddenly, we’ll be prepared to meet it with code upgrades, not hardware purchases.

If you are planning your own 2010 projects, I encourage you to think through your own situation.  It may be different than mine, or you may have more work to do to prepare for IPv6.


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