Verizon's professional services arm has introduced a service to convert networks to IPv6, anticipating that large organizations will soon need help with such projects.

"These services will span the entire IPv6 implementation lifecycle, offering clients full end-to-end support," said Melissa Bellisario-Board, senior consultant for product management and development for Verizon Professional Services.

Shrinking pool

The introduction is a timely one, as the number of available blocks of IPv4 addresses is rapidly diminishing. In October, the American Registry for Internet Numbers warned that less than 3 percent of IPv4 addresses are still available, and they should be completely exhausted in 2011.

Designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), IPv6, or Internet Protocol version 6, is the replacement for the current protocol girding the Internet, IPv4. Since it was a 32-bit address space, IPv4 can support only about 4 billion Internet addresses, whereas IPv6, with its 64-bit address space, can host a billion billion billion billion addresses (3.4×1038).

Verizon will walk organizations through an IPv6 implementation in three phases, said Waliur Rahman, principal consultant for the company's IPv6 Practice.

In the first phase, Verizon will assess if the current equipment and software is capable of communicating in IPv6, and see how the components will factor into the migration path.

"We do a detailed, deep-dive assessment of a customer's environments, which includes network logic, business logic, security tools, process and tools. And we also examine business drivers and create a business case for adopting IPv6," Rahman said.

The second phase involves drawing up a plan to transition to IPv6. Verizon will develop an architecture, a step-by-step deployment phase as well as test cases and success criteria.

The final phase is the implementation, including software configuration, fine-tuning and even training of the network administrators and managers.

Verizon is offering the service initially to large and midsized companies. An implementation could take a large organisation from several months to a year or longer. They do not have to be subscribed to Verizon's network services.

Home of the brave

One industry that Verizon will target is the US government. In September, federal government CIO Vivek Kundra decreed that all federal agencies upgrade their public-facing web services to native IPv6 by September 30, 2012.

While organisations could undertake a transition to IPv6 internally and without Verizon's assistance, Rahman argued that the IT staff at most organisations do not have much experience working with IPv6, whereas Verizon says it has quite a bit of expertise.

The service will offer a wide range of possible implementations. Some organisations may only want to build out an IPv6 backbone while keeping the end devices running on IPv4, or vice versa. Other organisations may only want selected parts of their networks to be IPv6-capable.

"We are pretty much open to different options," Rahman said. "We will work with the customer to find the best options."

A vocal proponent of IPv6, Verizon expects upgrading its own backbone network to the new protocol will take 18 months. It will run a dual stack of both IPv6 and IPv4 over its MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) network core.