Vista's IPv6: Not an easy upgrade

Microsoft execs admit steep learning curve for new Internet protocol

UNH-IOL continues to test Vista's IPv6 capabilities, but has not yet awarded the operating system its IPv6-ready logo. Other operating systems, including HP's version of Unix and Red Hat's version of Linux, were certified as IPv6-ready by UNH-IOL.

Johnson says that even if Vista passes the IPv6 certification, it won't make the transition to IPv6 any easier for corporate network managers. "The testing we do is interoperability testing, but that's not the exact topology as an office would have," Johnson says. Network managers are "going to have to make sure that each function or feature of their network is correctly enabled for IPv6. And security is going to be a big part of their testing."

Third-party testers and Microsoft executives agree that upgrading to Vista's IPv6 features is going to require a significant amount of training for IT executives. "Training is going to be the biggest stumbling block for any organization doing anything with IPv6," Siler says. "No matter how well your people understand IPv4, getting them up to speed on IPv6 is not a simple, overnight effort. You can't pick up a book, browse through it over the weekend and be an IPv6 master."

Microsoft executives say network managers will need to spend a significant amount of time getting hands-on experience with IPv6 and troubleshooting IPv6 problems before they're ready for migration.

"There's a fairly steep learning curve," Siler says. "Until people invest some time into getting up to speed on IPv6, network management tasks are going to be incrementally harder. . . . I would say that at a minimum somebody needs to be working with IPv6 for at least a year to feel comfortable with it and before they starting working with it in production."

Despite the amount of work involved in migrating to Vista's IPv6 stack, Microsoft officials say the protocol is worth the effort.

"We see tremendous value in IPv6. That's why we're using it internally," Siler says. "It's not just having billions of addresses. . . . Real end-to-end connectivity and end-to-end security" are among the big business values of IPv6.

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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