Cisco is bolstering support for Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) in its routing software by including protocol translation between IPv6 and existing IPv4 networks as well as support for other current software capabilities, the company announced at the IPv6 Forum Summit.
IPv6 is the next-generation system for allocating IP addresses. It allows for a nearly unlimited number of unique Internet addresses and may soon become critically important, as more appliances and mobile devices become Internet clients.
Cisco made IPv6 available in its Internetwork Operating System (IOS) earlier this year for use in IPv6-specific networks. Service providers and corporations will be able to connect IPv6 network segments directly to IPv4 networks using new protocol translation software, said Martin McNealis, director of product marketing for Cisco's Internet Technologies Division.
Wide deployment of IPv6 in production networks will require interoperability between the new technology and the old.
"You can set up IPv6 in certain parts of your network, but you better make sure you can connect that to IPv4," McNealis said.
Other capabilities have also been made available across both IPv6 and IPv4 networks, including the following:
- IOS security functions, such as access control mechanisms for managing routers remotely.
- Router management tools in IOS.
- Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) for functions such as traffic prioritisation and virtual private networks.
- Distributed switching, in which route information can be distributed from a router's central forwarding engine to line cards for faster forwarding.
The new IOS capabilities are available immediately in the Cisco 800, 1400, 1600, 1700, 2500, 2600, 3600, 7100, 7200, and 7500 Series Routers and the Cisco 12000 Series Internet Routers. Support for the Catalyst 6500 series and 7600 series routers will be available in the first half of 2002. There is no charge for the upgrade.
Cisco demonstrated hardware-based acceleration of packet forwarding in IPv6 networks on the Cisco 12000 Series Internet Router. That capability is to be made available through a firmware upgrade in Phase III of the IPv6 roll-out, probably in the second half of 2002, McNealis said. Phase III will also support the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routing protocol on IPv6 networks.
Cisco's rival, Juniper Networks, announced in November that it was making IPv6 available across all its routers with technology that will let customers run IPv4 and IPv6 networks simultaneously.