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Cisco takes IPv6 closer to the mainstream

Momentum grows for next-gen protocol

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Cisco today rolls out IOS enhancement which are designed to ease deployment of next generation Internet Protocol, IPv6, services on existing network infrastructures.

The network giant released its first IPv6 features solution in May 2001, and Phase II (of a three part plan) introduces improved security support, scalable routing, management services and distributed switching features. This means service providers and carriers can run IPv6 and IP version 4 (IPv4) simultaneously in large-scale production networks.

With Phase II, there's also IPv6 support MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), an important telco protocol which allows packets to be forwarded at the Layer 2 (switching) level rather than Layer 3 (routing) level.

The second phase of IPv6 features in Cisco IOS software became available today (at least for limited deployments), with wider availability scheduled in the first half of 2002.

Cisco is demonstrating forthcoming IPv6 Phase III capabilities at the IPv6 Forum Summit in Japan today. Phase III features include native support for the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routing protocol and hardware-accelerated IPv6 forwarding on high-end Cisco 12000 series routers. VoIP and multicasting support are expected to come with Phase III.

Other networking vendors are also working on improving IPv6 support. Juniper Networks, Cisco's main competitor in the service provider market, last week announced availability of what it claimed was the first production-ready IPv6 solution.

Foundry Networks plans to integrate IP Infusion's ZebOS IPv6 based routing protocols into Foundry's line of Layer 2 - 7 switching and Internet routing products.

In essence, IPv6's role is to expand the available number of Internet addresses - from the current maximum of four billion to 340 trillion trillion trillion - and so allow far more devices, from servers to smart phones to Net-enabled domestic appliances, to be connected to the Internet. It also features improved security and mobility features.

The snag is the shift to IPv6 will involve not just an upgrade in network infrastructure but a broader shift - in operating systems, middleware and application software - from IPv4 to IPv6. ®

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