So you know IPv4 subnetting? Great, you’re on your way to learning IPv6, but some things will need to be “unlearned”. Sean Wilkins shares the issues he believes could be stumbling blocks for IPv4 pros just getting started with IPv6.
Guest blog post by Sean Wilkins
Over the last several years I have taken advantage of some health issues and transformed my successful career as a full-time network architect/engineer/consultant into a career as full-time technical author/writer. With this transformation have come a number of challenges that mainly revolve around how best to speak to a large audience about specific technical topics. One of the most requested article topics I have needed to cover for a number of different sites has been IPv6.
Educating the Educated on IPv6
IPv6 has of course been around as a general technology for a number of years (more than a decade in fact), but has been slow to implement for a number of different reasons. With the number of ‘connected’ companies, individuals and devices rising exponentially, it is only a matter of time before IPv6 implementation will be more of a forced change than a choice; this has finally brought many companies to the conclusion that they should get ready for IPv6 and time is quickly running out.
One of the stumbling blocks I have seen for many people is how the math of IPv6 subnetting works especially compared to IPv4 subnetting. Many experienced engineers who have known IPv4 for years need to learn or re-learn the concepts behind hexadecimal math and understand how it differs from the binary and decimal math that they are used to dealing with when implementing and operating with IPv4. It seems that often just looking at the length of the IPv6 address can be a stress inducer, and all those non-numeric characters can make anyone cross their eyes for a few minutes.
But in my opinion, IPv6 is really much easier to work with than IPv4; there are certainly much larger network ranges to deal with that eliminate many of the problems that many of us remember from first implementing IPv4. This includes no classful vs classless; no Class A/B/C and for many network engineers, the host space will almost always (at least for the foreseeable future) be a 64 bit range which simplifies it even further. The point here is that the biggest obstacle for experienced engineers learning IPv6 subnetting is essentially the initial shock of moving an entrenched brain from binary/decimal to hexadecimal. Once this state has been passed, many will realize rather quickly that IPv6 subnetting is simple.
Another point that I can’t highlight enough when learning IPv6 is the need to hook up some gear (physical or virtual) and play with it. Most of the major networking vendors have very mature IPv6 implementations and just configuring them into simple common scenarios will help solidify the concepts that engineers will need to implement in a production setting.
The main point that I am trying to make here is that like many technical subjects, the first step for many is to just relax and take the new concepts one at a time. Sometimes this means un-learning what you know and trying to ‘retrain’ your brain to see something from a different angle. With many experienced IPv4 engineers, this will be part of their IPv6 learning journey; taking the high level concepts that have been learned and become embedded and ignoring some of them in favor of the new mathematical concepts introduced with IPv6.
Hopefully the people reading this article learning IPv6 for the first time and finding themselves a bit bewildered, can take some of the advice given in this article to help in their journey towards IPv6 expertise.
I have written a number of different topics on IPv6 over the last few years; for those interested check out the following links:
I am also in the process of launching my own content site that will be a shortcut to all of the articles and books that I am involved with; this will be located at http://idisperse.info.
Network Consultant/Technical Author