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IPv6: Moving Ahead at UB

IPv6 Project Team (clockwise from top): Scott Hendershot, Steve Heist, Craig Swartzlander, Jerry Sheehan, Joe Pautler, Heidi Wieczorek, Tony Casciano, and Laura Yates.

By John Whipple

Published August 18, 2016

John Whipple (UB Student, Class of 2018) is from Ketchikan, Alaska. He earned an Associate's Degree at NCCC in Massage Therapy and is an Intended-Nursing major at UB. His hobbies include hiking mountains, photography, board games, technology and nutrition. He aspires to be a Nurse Practitioner.

There are only 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, but 6 billion Internet-enabled devices in the world today. Rather than supply each device with a unique IP address, Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, have had to employ creative workarounds to supply all devices access to the Internet.

The ultimate solution to the problem of address shortages was the creation of the new IP standard, IPv6, which has 340 undecillion (10) potential addresses. Unfortunately, IPv4 and IPv6 addresses are not compatible. Conversion to support for the new protocol needs to take place in advance to avoid any Y2K-style bugs or data breaches. UB is well ahead of most of the world, with many organizations not yet starting the transition to IPv6. UB has spent the past five years preparing for IPv6 functionality to its network, and the project may be complete as early as 2017.

The IPv6 project team is designing UB’s systems to support both IPv4 and IPv6. Having both formats will allow access all of UB’s content without interruption.

Recent Accomplishments

The team’s recent work has been focused on making network, server and application systems, including VMware, PeopleTools, and Confluence, accessible through IPv6.

Thanks to Chris Candlena, Project Manager with Enterprise Infrastructure Services, and her team, a Remote Desktop Services infrastructure is now in place. This allows for IT staff to remotely troubleshoot other systems at UB.

“The team needed to have an access point from home, in the event of emergencies,” explained Tony Casciano, Project Manager for the IPv6 project. “The Remote Desktop Services system allows the team to connect via only one protocol, either IPv6 or IPv4, to troubleshoot any problems on any services they manage.”

What's Next?

With secure backend support in place for IPv6, the team has started converting UB services to IPv6, including:

  • Confluence Wiki: Confluence is the internal document management system for VPCIO staff. (Completed March 2016)

  • Clarity: Clarity is an internal project portfolio management system for VPCIO staff. (Clarity DEV was completed in February 2016, Clarity Production is not scheduled yet)

  • WordPress: UB’s exclusive server for hosting WordPress sites created by students, staff and faculty. (Completed March 2016)

Confluence and Clarity were chosen for early upgrades since they are used by internal VPCIO staff and would not affect other UB customers. Upgrading the WordPress server will directly benefit students and staff for greater accessibility.

IPv6 Conversion Timeline

Being IPv6 ready ahead of the rest of the world is a great benefit to the university. “This is a big insurance policy for UB’s networking future. When more things move to IPv6, we don’t have to play catch up. I can’t imagine doing this right in a rush,” Tony added.

The team’s progress is on par with a project of this magnitude. “It took the IPv6 team 1.5 years to address a myriad of IT infrastructure problems before we could even think about application conversions,” said Tony. “This may seem like a long time to outsiders, but it took Symantec, the largest anti-virus provider in the world, a year to provide UB’s IPv6 project team with a version of Norton anti-virus capable of filtering individual IPv6 addresses.”

UB will be targeting approximately 75 campus services for addition to IPv6. Upgrading smaller systems should go relatively fast, with other components of UB’s IT infrastructure will go online on a weekly or monthly basis.

IPv6 Benefits to the World

UB’s installation of IPv6 will future-proof the university’s network. “The University at Buffalo’s early appearance in the IPv6 sphere should inspire interest, attendance, collaboration and grants with forward thinking corporations and global citizens,” Tony said. Given UB’s already diverse student population, the university is priming itself to make a positive impact in the lives of students locally and abroad.