Cisco bolsters routers to spur IPv6 migration

Cisco routers upgraded to help IPv4 to IPv6 migration

Cisco this week enhanced its IPv6 offerings for its carrier core and edge routers in an effort to ease the eventual migration from IPv4.

The Carrier-Grade IP Version 6 Solution line includes a new hardware module for Cisco's CRS-1 router, and software for that system as well as for the ASR 9000 edge router. Cisco also unveiled professional services offerings to assist customers in the transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

Cisco says there are 700 days left until the last block of IPv4 addresses are allocated. By 2015, there will be 15 billion IP endpoints on the Internet. The IPv6 enhancements rolled out this week are intended to provide a bridge from IPv4 to full IPv6 network while at the same time preserving existing IPv4 addresses to ease the migration.

IPv4 has a finite set of unique addresses, numbering approximately 4 billion, which is rapidly depleting due to the growth of Internet-connected devices and smart devices. IPv6 has 340 undecillion unique addresses -- or more than 50 billion billion billion -- for each person on earth, more than enough to continue to support the demand for IP addresses, Cisco says.

However, the protocols of IPv4 and IPv6 are not directly compatible, so migrating a network from IPv4 to IPv6 requires preservation of IPv4 while orchestrating a gradual and prudent transition to IPv6.

This has been a chief reason why the industry has been procrastinating on this migration even though IPv6 was developed a decade ago. But with IPv4 addresses facing imminent depletion, the time may have come to accelerate the adoption of IPv6.

"I do think we've reached the point where we should be concerned about it," says Glen Hunt, an analyst at Current Analysis. "The biggets problem might be that we've been crying wolf about IPv6 and defining ways to get around attacking the problem. It's probably something to take seriously two to five years from now but (carriers) have to start to prepare."

With that, Cisco unveiled the Carrier-Grade Services Engine for the CRS-1. Deployed deep in the core of service provider's network, this module supports large-scale, high-throughput network-address translation (NAT).

At the edge, Cisco rolled out Carrier-Grade IPv6 Solution for its ASR series routers. This is software that helps enable NAT at the edge of a network for smaller or distributed IP networks.

The software is intended to first tunnel IPv6 addresses through IPv4; and then perform the inverse function as IPv6 addresses outnumber IPv4.

Lastly, Cisco is offering services for the Carrier-Grade IPv6 Solution implementation. These are professional services designed to make the transition to IPv6 smooth and reduce the risk to network operations. The services include initial planning and IPv6 readiness assessment to design and implementation.

All products will be available in early 2010. Cisco did not disclose pricing.

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