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BLOG: Life in a dual stack world

Scott Hogg | April 25, 2013
What life might be like when we are using two Internet protocols?

Last week was the 2013 North American IPv6 Summit conference. This was the 6th year of the IPv6 conference held in Denver, CO. One of the items that all attendees received at the registration booth was an IPv6 Buddy keypad. This got people thinking about what other changes we might expect to experience as we move into a dual-protocol Internet world.

Picture of my new little IPv6 Buddy.

IPv6 Buddy

This is a small USB keypad that is specially made for entering IPv6 addresses. It contains "0" through "9", "A" through "F" and special characters like ":", "::", and "/". It is intended to speed up the entering of IPv6 addresses rather than use a standard keyboard and number pad.

Internet Edge:

Organizations around the world are starting their Internet edge deployments of IPv6. This is the most logical place to dip your toe into the IPv6 Internet waters. By deploying IPv6 at your Internet perimeter organizations gain valuable knowledge of the protocol and experience using the protocol. Through setting up an IPv6-enabled Internet edge you learn about IPv6 routing protocols, dual-protocol DNS server configurations, firewall configuration, dual-protocol server operating server configuration. All of these skills are valuable as an organization starts to bring IPv6 connectivity further inside. Deploying an Internet-edge with IPv6 is like setting up a green-field network deployment. Everywhere you have an IPv4 address you will also have an IPv6 address and run both protocols in parallel.


When it comes to securing our Internet edge network infrastructures there are many things to consider before we deploy IPv6. We should consider how IPv6 will affect our firewall policies. We should determine how our E-mail server will respond to spam being delivered over IPv6 transport. We should investigate if our Web Application Firewall (WAF) support IPv6 and if this changes our PCI compliance strategy. We will also want to have defensive capabilities for IPv6 attacks and have monitoring visibility using a SIMS/SIEMS system. We will need to secure our IPv4 and IPv6 systems equally well because the attackers will try to exploit the systems that are have weaker defenses over one or the other protocol.


We operate a single-protocol environment today and it isn't always the easiest thing to maintain. Imagine if we had to maintain two side-by-side networks. That would require more effort than maintaining a single network environment. Back in the mid 1990s organizations had multiprotocol networks that used AppleTalkIPX and IP and it wasn't too much of a burden. However, operating an IPv4 and IPv6 network in parallel will increase administrative overhead and increase operating expenses.

In a dual protocol world you have lots of tasks that will need to be performed twice; once for each protocol. Every time you need to provision a new server you need an IPv4 address and an IPv6 address from your IPAM system. Every server will need to be added to DNS with an A record and an AAAA record (and complementary PTR records). These systems will need to be secured with firewall policies for both protocols using host objects or groups. End-to-end connectivity testing will need to be performed over both transport protocols. The good news is that there will be plenty to do so job security will not be your foremost concern.


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