A big factor in the equation is the cost of implementing IPv6. While smaller enterprises may be able to begin the migration with a less-costly investment in software only, large providers with lots of legacy equipment may be facing capital investments in the millions of dollars, says Hurricane Electric's DeLong. One problem is that many companies just don't know what that actual cost will be.
"Service providers are thinking of ways to make money from IPv6, and enterprises are thinking of leveraging IPv6 to reduce overall IT operational costs" - Qing Li, Blue Coat Systems
Blue Coat Systems is a carrier-level application systems delivery provider working with customers to help them assess what they'll need to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6. The requirements of that transition differ widely and depend greatly upon the type of company, says Qing Li, IPv6 technology leader and Chief Scientist at Blue Coat.
"The migration strategy toward IPv6 is different for enterprise, and different for service providers. For the enterprise sector, what they are really focused on is how to leverage IPv6 as a new technology to simplify their IT operations and to reduce the overall cost," he says. "Whereas in the service provider space, they're trying to help enterprises to create additional managed services. They want to be able to leverage IPv6 as a new revenue stream. Service providers are thinking of ways to make money from IPv6, and enterprises are thinking of leveraging IPv6 to reduce overall IT operational costs, especially in the current economic climate."
But it's more than just a physical assessment that's needed when planning IPv6 migration, and that's created a niche area for some companies to give enterprises or service providers a more holistic look at what it will take to accomplish the transition efficiently. Hurricane Electric has started a training and consulting practice, led by DeLong, to help companies evaluate their requirements and understand what IPv6 can do. Likewise, Verizon recently launched a professional consulting service that focuses specifically on transitioning to IPv6.
All three companies say that consultants and clients must focus on three key areas: an overall evaluation of equipment, applications and services; educating all the players in the transition, especially the IT staff; and developing a near-seamless transition plan that maintains security and other policies.
"Some of our key principles for these services are to understand a customer's technical drivers but also their business drivers. It's very important because when the CIS writes a check, they need to be sure that it pays off or takes them in the direction that they'd like to go," says Waliur Rahman, Professional Service Manager of IPv6 Practice at Verizon Business.