IPv6 Network Administration

The Next Generation Internet Protocol Moves from Theory to Practice as O’Reilly releases “IPv6 Network Administration.”

For nearly a decade, the next generation protocol to
improve the Internet has been “just two years away.” Finally, the future
has arrived. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is ready, it works, and
its momentum is starting to build. With huge numbers of users in Asia
preparing to go online–along with new Internet-enabled devices such as
cars and refrigerators–the current, 20-year-old IP protocol is straining
under the weight. IPv6 software has begun to ship with operating systems
and routers, and anyone who runs a network needs to learn how to deploy it.

“Various impediments to IPv6 growth have been recently removed,” comments
Niall Richard Murphy, coauthor of “IPv6 Network Administration” (O’Reilly
US $44.95). “Organizations are adopting it at an increasing rate, and the
US Department of Defense mandating its use has been a big boost. All of
this points towards a big need for training and education in the next one
to two years, and we think our book will fill a significant need in that
timeframe.”

Murphy, a specialist in IP services and next generation networking, played
a role in getting global IPv6 address allocation policies changed a few
years ago, which has helped pave the way for IPv6 to replace the current
protocol, IPv4. His book, co-written with mathematician David Malone, so
far is alone in explaining what administrators need to do with IPv6 in the
real world–how to install it (if necessary), configure it, and use it in
day-to-day network activities.

“IPv6 deployments are already growing,” agrees Malone. “Geeks have begun
using IPv6 to solve problems in their own networks. Like WiFi, I would
expect industry to begin to pick up IPv6 in a serious way over the next
couple years.”

“IPv6 Network Administration” takes a practical approach, focusing on the
needs of network and system administrators, but is also of use to anyone
who needs to understand the technology. “We hope to show what is good,
what is bad, and what is practical,” Murphy and Malone explain to readers.
“Rather than present a reference, we offer a distillation of what IPv6
means in practice, directly relating it to the hands-on experience of
network administrators.”

Murphy adds, “Most other IPv6 books we’ve looked at concentrate primarily
on the ‘what’–the details of the protocol and implementation–and are
very theoretical in focus. We’re interested in the ‘how’ and the ‘why.'”

IPv6 has been on the drawing board at the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF) for a dozen years. Back then, with the mushrooming of commercial
web sites, they were concerned with an impending shortage of IP addresses.
With roughly two-thirds of the total IPv4 addresses having been allocated
to the US–some ISPs have more addresses than the whole of China–Gartner
Inc. research and analysis group estimates that the number of these 32-bit
addresses will run out sometime next year.

The 128-bit IPv6 addresses will solve the growth issue for decades to
come, but, as “IPv6 Network Administration” points out, that’s just the
start of what the new protocol promises. IPv6 also adds more efficient
routing, integrated auto-configuration to reduce administrative costs, and
better quality-of-services (QoS)–the guarantee that network traffic you
send gets there on time. IPv6 also includes built-in features for mobile
networking recently tacked onto IPv4, along with end-to-end security.

“From a security perspective, IPv4 is way out of its depth,” Murphy and
Malone explain. “IPv6 enhances security considerably. Probably the most
important contribution it makes is not technical, but a matter of policy:
the protocol mandates that an IPv6 stack must not be implemented without
supporting some form of encryption.”

With “IPv6 Network Administration,” the authors show intermediate to
advanced system administrators how to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 while
maintaining interoperability with older IPv4 networks. They’ll learn how
to configure, test, and troubleshoot IPv6, how to handle routing, security
and other network management issues, and how to provide standard network
services, such as email and web access.

“The slow growth of frustration with IPv4 together with the benefits of
IPv6 will eventually cause a critical mass of deployment,” Murphy and
Malone contend. “It’s been adopted as a standard by well-known industry
players such as Cisco, Microsoft, and Sun, and confidence is increasing
that the rightful successor to IPv4–the most popular internetworking
protocol in the world–has arrived just when we need it most.”

Because IPv6 is backward compatible with IPv4, the two protocols will
exist side-by-side for the next several years as adoption takes place one
network at a time. “IPv6 Network Administration” is the most practical way
available for administrators who run anything from high-performance 10GB
Ethernet networks to low-bandwidth local area and wireless networks to get
ahead of the curve.

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