Just when you thought you had everything covered, here’s another spanner I’m going throw in the works. IPV6. Google reports that 3% of Google users are now using this next-generation Internet protocol.

The exponential growth in the Internet of things is placing great pressures on the network. Pretty soon, every device that uses an IP-address must support IPV6. The migration to IPV6 is therefore both necessary and pressing. In fact, Asia Pacific was the first region to exhaust IPV4 addresses in early 2011.

Gartner analysts Neil Rickard and Andrew Lerner observed in their research, “Create the right IPv6 road map for your organization”, and that by 2015, enterprises that cannot communicate with the growing number of IPv6-connected devices risk financial and reputational damage.

Organizations with a presence on the Internet need to seriously consider how they are going to integrate IPv6 support into their environments. Indeed, many organizations in places such as Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe, India, and South America, are operating solely on the IPv6 Internet.

Similarly, many of the newest smartphones being introduced in the market are IPv6-only devices

Among the biggest challenges that IPv6 poses is that it is incompatible with IPv4 — the two protocols cannot “talk” to each other. IPv4 and IPv6 networks are entirely separate. Traffic can’t travel from one network to the other without intervening technology.

Is making the IPv6 transition as painful as industry analysts and IT pundits have led people to believe? There’s no escaping the fact that organizations need to support IPv6 if they want to continue providing consistent services to both IPv4 and IPv6 users.

Perhaps, it might be less intimidating to reframe the task of providing support for IPv6 as an expansion rather than as a migration.

The key questions to ask might be: “When?” “Where?” and “How?” to extend support to IPv6 with the least amount of disruption, downtime, and additional infrastructure costs.

The “When” question is significant because before you can begin, you first need to find if your provider supports IPv6. If not, then find one that does. After you have the circuit, you need to request, obtain, and then allocate your IPv6 addresses. The paperwork for this alone may take many months, so provide ample time in the process for this step.

In determining the “Where?” to begin the transition, a good place to start would be to conduct a proof of concept rather than to configure production servers for IPv6 immediately. One reason for not using the production network from the onset is of course, the unquantifiable risks to existing IPv4 services and bandwidth issues. Going the proof of concept route mitigates the risks.

The question of “How?” to do it is the easiest to answer. The data center needs to have the capability, in the form of full proxy devices, to intelligently manage network traffic between users and applications. These devices must be able to view all interactions between client and server, understand and handle both IPv4 and IPv6 requests, or act as a gateway, translating IPv4 addresses to IPv6 and vice versa.

Many of F5’s customers already have these capabilities because our devices are native IPv6. This is especially valuable in providing for website visits from IPv6 only devices.

IPv6 is also creating a whole new set of customers. A vast new market is emerging worldwide that enterprises cannot afford to ignore. It is important to quickly establish a presence on the IPv6 network and be in a position to address this new market.

For huge enterprises such as content providers, financial institutions, and web monsters, the process of supporting IPv6 will understandably be more complex. The differences of scale alone will magnify the third-party content challenges.

These challenges arise because large organizations are often highly dependent on third party applications and services such as payroll processing, subscriber billing, content delivery, as well as CRM, SaaS, and other application service provider vendors.

These applications can be very particular about how and when other elements and processes such as firewalls, TCP and WAN optimization services, caching, and compression are configured and implemented. The business logic required to orchestrate all the moving parts will present complex challenges for these organizations.

Being able to expand upon a foundation that is already native IPv6, gears organizations for the next generation Internet with its raft of new services and improved user experience. Organizations that are IPv4 will ultimately render themselves invisible to the world of IPv6 users.