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If you are planning your roll-out of IPv6, or you are just interested in learning more about IPv6 transition techniques, one of the topics you will want to research is transition tools. Transition mechanisms (or approaches) come in three basic flavors: dual-stack; tunneling; and translation.

Dual-stack is an approach where IPv4 and IPv6 are deployed on the same devices and networks, at the same time. There is no issue with this, as IPv4 and IPv6 will not interfere with one another. Dual-stack is less of a transition tool, and more of a “transition architecture”. Dual-stack is the recommended approach, when feasible, as it employs both IPv4 and IPv6 natively. It is important to note that wide-scale dual-stack deployments could increase operational costs, and could provide a larger attack surface for hackers.

Translation provides a means for IPv4 and IPv6 nodes to indirectly interoperate with each other. The concept is very similar to transition IPv4 Network Address Translation (NAT), but is much more complex since you are doing more than just replacing one IP address with another. In the case of translation between IPv4 and IPv6, you need to translate between two different protocols with different headers. At one point, the IETF deprecated NAT as an IPv6 transition mechanism since there were so many issues with its deployment. However, new techniques such as NAT64 have become popular in helping website operators reach IPv6 end users.

Tunneling is probably one of the most widely used IPv6 transition mechanisms. Tunneling is a simple concept where an entire IPv6 packet is encapsulated as the payload in an IPv4 packet. It is then transported across an IPv4-only network where the IPv6 packets is then pulled out and sent to its end destination. Tunneling is extremely useful in turning up IPv6 service when your ISP or service provider does not support IPv6. There are several organizations that offer free IPv6 tunnel broker services. GoGo6 offers its Freenet6 tunnel broker service. This allows you to download a client on your computer and establish a tunnel for IPv6 connectivity directly from it. This is very useful if you have a laptop and want IPv6 connectivity on the go. If you are connecting a home or company router, and have a stable Internet connection, Hurricane Electric provides its Tunnel Broker service. You can establish a permanent tunnel between your router and Hurricane Electric. They will even provide you with a /48, if requested, for your site IPv6 connectivity requirements.

Don’t forget to read our Tech Tips on Understanding the IPv6 protocol header and IPv6 addressing.

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About this author

Dale Geesey (CISSP/PMP) is a security, networking and IT professional with over 20 years of experience working in the federal and carrier community. His primary focus is on IPv6, Cyber Security, Health IT and next generation technologies. He has been supporting Government and commercial IPv6 Transition activities since 2004. Specializing in the introduction of advanced and next generation technologies, he has supported numerous technology efforts for government organizations including VA, DoD, Army, SBA, DISA, NSA, SBA, Navy, NIST, OMB, FBI, and NATO. Dale is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Auspex Technologies.

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