Bridging the IPv6 Skills Gap

It has been ten years since the Internet Society hosted the World IPv6 Launch. On June 6, 2012, operators, network equipment manufacturers and web companies enabled IPv6 for their products and services. Ten years later, the adoption and implementation of IPv6 has advanced in terms of routing, end-user capabilities, and traffic.

Data routing is increasing IPv6 traffic, more ASNs announcing IPv6 prefixes, and end-user adoption of IPv6 is between 30% and 40% globally, albeit with wide variations between regions and countries .

Despite this, issues such as the IPv6 skills gap continue to hinder its wider adoption. Across the world, the public and private sectors are increasingly aware of the need to make services available over IPv6 and promote their use, but adequate knowledge remains a major barrier in the transition to IPv6.

Users need a thorough understanding of the protocol and how to implement, implement and maintain it, and how to keep IPv6 networks secure. Many IT professionals do not yet have sufficient knowledge and experience for this. Bridging the skills gap by finding the right technical information is essential to continue this rising trend in IPv6 deployment.

The skills gap today is not what it used to be, say ten or even five years ago. IPv6 training needs are a moving target and IPv6 skills are a complex topic. Closing the skill gaps depends on acquiring the right skills at the right time. IP is used everywhere in every modern infrastructure and encompasses many different professional profiles, each with different tasks and skills. What each person should learn is different, but this is not the only variable to consider. The time, or rather, the maturity level of IPv6 on a given infrastructure also makes the required skill needs very different. It is also worth considering that technological changes and best practices are created or evolve over time, so skills must also evolve with continuous training.

The skills needed to decide when and how to deploy IPv6 are very different from those needed to design and plan an implementation, deploy IPv6 in production infrastructure, or maintain and troubleshoot with IPv6 networks. What we have also seen in recent years is the skills needed to innovate; IPv6 is not the ultimate goal, it is a driver of new and better things to come.

While it may seem daunting at first to understand the features of IPv6, closing the skills gap is often quite easy. What organizations, especially IT managers, need is an investment in training their teams. While some may speculate that technology requires the biggest investment in implementing IPv6, in reality it is the people who need to be equipped with the right skills and know-how. Only after a team has gone through the entire learning process can things change.

Regional internet registries and the internet community have promoted the adoption of IPv6 over the past ten years. Governments are now paying attention and moving from IPv4 to dual-stack or IPv6-only with the backing of proper training. In 2020, the US government released plans to transition most US government networks and services to IPv6-only networks. In the same year, the Dutch government also declared that IPv6 would become a mandatory requirement for all government websites and email domains. The Regional Internet Registry, RIPE NCC and the Dutch government recently collaborated on a pilot project to close the skills gap and roll out IPv6 training for employees and continue their transition to IPv6. The main government website and many others are now IPv6 enabled. Even the website of the Dutch royal family is dual-stack.

It’s true that companies are still wary of embracing IPv6, even though the protocol has been ingrained in our everyday technology since its launch in the 1990s. However, as shown, there is a clear trend towards IPv6 and the benefits of investing in training should be taken seriously. From ensuring security and understanding functions to training IT teams to have the right knowledge, all of these ingredients can help businesses deploy and embrace IPv6 with complete confidence.

It becomes clear that it is necessary for all organizations to pay attention to this trend and as we continue to see how reliant organizations are on secure IPv6 networks, this process should start sooner rather than later.

Alvaro Vives is the Technical Training and Development Team Manager for RIPE NCC’s Learning & Development Department. His role as a trainer has included frequent trips throughout the RIPE NCC (Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia) service region to deliver training on behalf of the RIPE NCC on a number of topics including Local Internet Registrations, IPv6, BGP, Security, RIPE NCC services, the RIPE database, and the Routing registry.

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