Enterprises should start planning now for the next internet address system, IPv6, analyst group Ovum warned this week.
The switchover from the existing address protocol, IPv4, to IPv6 will create vast numbers of new internet addresses, just as existing internet addresses begin to run out.
But the transition could disrupt websites, e-mail communications and web services if businesses are unprepared, said Ovum analyst Mike Sapien (pictured).
He advised businesses to prepare contingency plans by the end of next year, and to be ready to implement them should the transition disrupt their online services in 2013.
"Enterprises could run out of IP addresses, but more likely they are going to run into a situation where their customers can't get hold of them or access their services, or they can't connect with the services of a key business partner," he said.
Prepare for IPv4 to IPv6 transition
IT organisations need to start preparing now if they want to avoid potential disruption to their business, the analyst group warned.
But most businesses are unaware of the potential risks. Many wrongly believe that if they buy IPv6-compatible equipment they are covered, or wrongly assume that their internet service provider (ISP) will take care of the problem.
"Enterprises are not that prepared and there is no urgency to get prepared. Probably less than 10% are fully ready, and probably another 30% think they are ready but are not," Sapien said.
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For IPv6 to work correctly, ISPs, content producers and network providers all need to ensure their systems are compatible with the new protocol.
The process is analogous to high-definition television (HDTV), he said. You can't buy an HDTV and watch high-definition programmes unless the broadcaster is broadcasting in high definition and the TV production company has filmed it in high definition.
"You just can't do it own your own. Many organisations assume they are ready for IPv6 because their router supports IPv6, but that does not mean they are actually ready for IPv6," he said.
"At the minimum, businesses need to do an assessment of their systems, so when the time comes they are prepared. I liken it to a disaster recovery plan - they may not have to implement the plan now, but they are ready to pull the trigger if they need to," said Sapien.
IPv6 transition impact on business
Multinational businesses with customers and partners in the Asia-Pacific region are likely to be affected by the move from IPv4 to IPv6 first. The region is growing rapidly and is beginning to run out of IPv4 addresses, said Sapien.
Companies that run retail websites accessed by large numbers of customers are also more likely to be affected by the transition.
IPv6 has been available since 1999, but over the past few years, telcos, internet service companies, ISPs and content providers have been promoting the standard more heavily. But they need to work hard to help enterprises prepare for the transition, said Ovum.
A smaller enterprise with fewer than 1,000 staff could carry out an assessment of the exposure to IPv6 and develop a plan within a week. For a multinational, it could take two months or more, said Sapien.
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