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Wed 26 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Foundry brings IPv6 to its switches and routers. The vendor is pushing hard for early advantage in the new protocol.

Foundry Networks has enhanced its NetIron 40G router and BigIron MG8 switch with the adoption of Terathon modules that support wire-speed IPv6. The modules deliver wire-speed 480 million packet per second internet-scale IPv6 routing, IPv4 to IPv6 transitioning and IPv6 security. They also put in place the stepping stones users will need to migrate to IPv6 networks.

The NetIron 40G and BigIron MG8, when configured with the new modules, deliver up to 480 million packets per second wire-speed IPv4 and IPv6 routing and switching. According to Foundry, this establishes the industry-leading benchmark for 10-Gigabit Ethernet multiservice routers and switches. Each NetIron 40G line module supports as many as 512,000 IPv4 routes, which is four times the size of the internet today, or 128,000 IPv6 routes in the module’s pre-populated forwarding engine. In addition, the NetIron 40G system supports up to one million BGP routes for greater flexibility and scalability, says Foundry.

Each BigIron MG8 line module supports up to 256,000 IPv4 routes or 64,0000 IPv6 routes in the module’s pre-populated forwarding engine, and up to one million BGP routes. Foundry claims this scalability will accommodate the needs of even the largest enterprise networks. In addition to adding more addresses, Foundry’s IPv6 enhancements are designed to boost the security capabilities of the NetIron and BigIron.

“IPv6 requires the use of IP Security (IPSec) to encrypt traffic at the IP layer, offering a secure means to forward data end-to-end for all IPv6 based applications. Network infrastructure equipment such as routers can rely on IPSec for secure routing updates and it also offers security extension headers to facilitate the implementation of encryption and authentication,” says Yarob Sakhnini, regional technical manager Foundry.

This move shows how Foundry and other vendors are pushing hard for IPv6. Many companies, especially larger enterprises are already laying the groundwork to make the shift to IPv6. A number of institutions in the region are running trials of IPv6, with a view to deeper investment. Also, the Pentagon, one of the largest networking spenders in the world, has committed to make its networks fully interoperable with IPv6 by 2005.

These companies will take advantage of the improved security, mobility support and increased number of IP addresses that IPv6 offers.

While the security benefits in particular are tempting, IPv6 is a back burner issue for most companies. Some argue that IPv4 has plenty of legs left and don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade. For one, many IT and network managers have their hands full with more immediate concerns such as security and convergence to entertain the overhaul that moving to IPv6 will bring. Another reason is that IPv4 is proving resilient; for example, companies are developing workarounds to extend the life of IPv4 address use.

“The success of any new technology is largely based on how simply it can be transitioned into an existing environment with minimal impact. IPv6 will need to co-exist during the transitional period, maintaining full functionality with IPv4 network resources,” adds Sakhnini.

With larger companies leading the way we can expect to see a slow shift to IPv6 over the next ten years. We feel that security will be the main driver of this move but also feel that vendors will have to work hard to ensure that the transition to IPv6 proves to be a seamless one.

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