To learn IPv6, you must first unlearn IPv4

IPv6 is not IPv4, and administrators will have to learn new tricks to setting up and running networks as they transition to the latest protocols, says the network manager for Central Michigan University.

For one thing, the address space of the new protocols is bigger. Lots bigger.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around the sheer size of the addresses,” said Ryan Laus.

Related coverage:

How one university is switching to IPv6 on its own terms

Laus is working with a couple of /16 allocations of IPv4 addresses on the CMU campus, each of about 64,000 addresses. He also has a /32 allocation of IPv6 addresses, which he calls “an ungodly number.”

Addresses in IPv4 are 32-bits long, which provides a little more than 4 billion individual addresses. They are 128-bits long in IPv6, which provides an exponentially larger number. This is generally seen as an advantage, but it also means that administrators will have to unlearn the tricks they have used in managing the limited number of addresses available on IPv4 networks.

“We are used to struggling with our IPv4 addresses,” Laus said. Subnets no longer are necessary with the new protocols, and just mapping and understanding your address space can be a challenge using traditional tools.

IP address management tools are available to automate tasks that can no longer be conveniently done by hand, but the resulting networks will be markedly different than those that administrators are used to dealing with.

In the long run, it should be a simpler job than dealing with the cramped space they are used to today. But the magnitude of the change is likely to make the transition a daunting task for the immediate future.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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