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IPv6 addressing brings benefits, few problems to storage administrators

IPv6 addressing brings benefits to storage networking in terms of scalability and performance, without big downsides for storage administrators.

We've been hearing about IPv6, which is the latest iteration of the Internet Protocol, for more than a decade. It's got a bigger address space than IPv4 and it can support a much larger number of IP addresses. In this FAQ, Brian Wolfe, partner and networking practice lead at Laurus Technologies, an IT services and consulting company in the Midwest, explains what storage professionals need to know about IPv6 addressing.

You can read a transcript of the interview below or download the MP3.

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SearchStorageChannel.com: What does someone who mainly works with storage, whether a storage professional or a storage VAR, need to know about IPv6 addressing?

Wolfe: If you're a storage architect or a storage administrator, your role is going to be making sure that the storage targets have connectivity to the initiators. So, for example, if you're using iSCSI, that's going to be important. Typically those are host systems, end systems, and then the actual storage hardware. And, in a lot of environments, those might be getting addressing through DHCP. You may manually end up assigning the addresses on the storage, you're going to have to deal with a different addressing format, but that may be the extent to which, if you're the storage administrator, you're going to deal with IP Version 6, just getting used to much larger and hexadecimal addressing.

You can contrast that with the folks on the networking team; basically, their whole world is going to start all over again. So, there's almost nothing that'll be the same going from IP Version 4 to IP Version 6 for the networking team. So, for them, this is a huge change. But, as a storage administrator, you're going to deal with the different addressing format and you'll get some improvements in terms of how well your data flows, but that's not necessarily going to mean that you're going to have to invest in a ton of education to be able to take advantage of that.

SearchStorageChannel.com: What kind of problems are there, if any, for somebody administering NAS or iSCSI devices with IPv6?

Wolfe: Once [the IPv6 addressing scheme has] been put in place and everyone's agreed to it, then there's actually a lot of benefits to using IP Version 6 [for] NAS and iSCSI storage systems. So, for example, as the performance needs to scale for some of these applications, IP Version 6 is actually better than IP Version 4 in terms of, if you have a router, and what the router needs to actually be able to route the traffic. It's a simpler header format. So … once the routers have the IP Version 6 support in hardware, for switching it, they'll be faster. Now, the only thing to be aware of is, some of them today have software implementations. They're not all doing it in hardware. So, if you have a router that's doing it in software it might actually be slower. But, as we go, you'll find that the performance of IP Version 6 might actually be better than they're getting now. And there are things around quality of service and encryption that are better and more seamless; the data can be encrypted the whole way end to end with IP Version 6 more seamlessly.

SearchStorageChannel.com: So IPv6 addressing brings improvements, and from a storage perspective, it doesn't really present any big problems for NAS and iSCSI?

Wolfe: Once you get over the length of the addresses, that's true.

SearchStorageChannel.com: Can IPv6 addressing be effectively implemented without a hardware upgrade?

Wolfe: It's just going to depend on the manufacturer and the specific product. The older products [are] never going to get updates for IP Version 6, and it's not as big a deal for an end system, like a storage array or NAS, whether it's doing it in hardware or software. It's the switches and routers in the center of the network that have problems if they're doing it in software. And as things progress, a lot of the products you buy today … are going to support IP Version 6, at least the ones for the enterprise [are].

This was last published in December 2010

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