Top Issues for MSOs: Launching IPv6

By Incognito on August, 20 2013

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It’s no secret that the future of IP networking lies in IPv6. While transition challenges remain, the benefits of IPv6 far outweigh the costs. IPv6 offers greater efficiency, security, and ease of operations than IPv4. Given these benefits, and the scarcity of IPv4 addresses, there’s simply no reason to delay implementation.

However, MSOs are faced with the stark reality that the transition will be a long and complex process. Meanwhile, you need to optimize existing IPv4 resources and deal with the additional layer of complexity caused by IPv6. This requires a whole new outlook on IP address management (IPAM). IPv6 will affect every facet of the networking environment where IP addresses are involved, including the back office and routing and server infrastructure. And let’s not forget the subscriber premises, where you have little to no control.

Given the complexity of IPv6, spreadsheets and homegrown solutions are no longer viable options due to scalability limitations. A service provider-grade IPAM solution is a vast improvement and will make life much easier in IPv4 and dual-stack environments. A complete solution should include the ability to manage large amounts of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, both private and public, and customer and internal, as well as track addresses associated with business services.

To ease the introduction of IPv6, a comprehensive IPAM solution must align with the fundamental steps of this process: planning, monitoring, management, and reporting.

The current transition to IPv6 involves much more than simply adding a new address. It offers the opportunity to renumber your entire network. In essence, it’s a new beginning. Before that can happen, though, you need to take inventory of existing IPv4 resources, and that requires looking through all of your current allocations and investigating how and where addresses are used. An IPAM solution should provide a comprehensive view of where addresses are deployed to aid IPv6 planning and stretch existing IPv4 resources while preparing for IPv6 introduction.

Many operators get IPv6 planning wrong on the first few tries by being too conservative with addresses. There is a lot of literature available to help IP planners avoid these mistakes but a comprehensive IPAM solution should have best practices tools such as specialized IPv6 assignment rules and host density ratios calculation tools built in to aid in the planning process.

IPv4 will exist alongside IPv6 for a long time to come. To help service providers manage and monitor both sets of resources, a solution must provide a holistic view of all IP addresses by polling and compiling the data of a provider’s vast DHCP network to find exactly where and how addresses are deployed. Only then can a provider ensure that their IP plans match up with actual deployment for both monitoring and reporting purposes. Not all commercial IPAM caters to the unique management needs of service providers. Look for solutions that will properly align IPAM with DNS and DHCP, as well as allow providers to manage complex requests including those of an enterprise customer.

A Strong Foundation

An ancient Asian proverb says, “The loftiest towers rise from the ground.” Service providers must first build a strong foundation before they can launch new initiatives and tactics to remain competitive. In the past three posts, I’ve focused on the importance of tackling key issues such increasing subscriber bandwidth, managing multiple devices and standards, and the importance of planning for IPv6.

It’s easy to become so focused on increasing revenue per user and chasing new opportunities that fundamental technologies are pushed aside. However, these technologies are often the key to supporting new initiatives.

OTT services are gaining momentum in all regions and causing growth in bandwidth usage. Before you choose which counter initiatives to launch, you need to understand how your bandwidth is being used and who is using it. Before you launch new advanced services, you need to have the ability to quickly provision the multitude of devices in the marketplace. And before you can plan and monitor the beast that is IPv6, you need a comprehensive view of your existing IPv4 resources. Does your tower have a sound foundation?

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