IPv6 for SMBs? Not So Fast

In 2011, the global free pool of available IPv4 addresses ran dry. That doesn’t mean that IPv4 addresses are no longer valid, it just means that in order for big networks to scale, they need to start using the next generation IPv6 addresses. But what about small business users?

IPv4 provided more than 4.3 billion addresses, while IPv6 — with its 128-bit addressing scheme — can support 340 trillion, trillion, trillion (34 x 10 to the 38th power) Internet addresses. Networking vendor Kerio is now adding IPv6 support to its small business UTM (Unified Theat Management) firewall appliance with its Kerio Control 7.3 update.

Kerio leverages Linux and specifically components of the Debian Linux distribution for its UTM device. The Linux operating system supports IPv6 as well as IPv4.

Though Kerio is adding IPv6 support for SMBs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that small businesses need to be moving to IPv6 today.

“We’re definitely not telling small businesses to go out and use IPv6,” James Gudeli, vice president of business development at Kerio, told InternetNews.com. “We want to make sure that people are aware of IPv6 traffic on their network.”

Kerio Control 7.3 provides visibility into IPv6 traffic so that a small business can monitor and be aware of activity. The hidden truth about IPv6 is that even though it’s not broadly adopted, it is widely supported on consumer operating systems. Both Apple Macs and Microsoft Windows PCs already support IPv6. A user could potentially tunnel IPv6 traffic over the network and that could represent a security risk.

“If users are trying to get an IPv6 address, and you don’t realize that your DSL modem from your Internet Service Provider will provide it to them, you could open up a hole that you don’t know about,” Gudeli said. “By seeing if there is any IPv6 network on your traffic that you didn’t authorize, Kerio gives you the capability to block it, if necessary.”

Gudeli stressed that eventually it will be necessary for small business to move IPv6, but it’s not a strong business need today. Of course, awareness is important to help mitigate risks.

IPv6 capabilities aren’t yet fully baked into Kerio’s UTM either. Gudeli noted that for IPv4, Kerio has bandwidth management, reporting and individual user information visibility. The same services are not currently available on IPv6. Instead, all Kerio can do today is simply see the traffic and then help the small business to either allow that traffic or to block it.

“We intend to get to the point where all the services that we have for IPv4 are available on IPv6, but it’s not with this release; it’ll be an incremental process for us.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Internetnews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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