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IPv6 Migration: Host and Routing Functions on Cisco Catalyst Switches

IPv6 support is a hot topic today on any networking circle. Given the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses and the promisses of new services over IPv6, it is very natural for most customers to be concerned about buying products that already include v6 features or, at the very least, a sound roadmap. (Moreover, some industry segments have even defined regulations about IPv6 support on equipments to be acquired).

But, before you start selecting your IPv6-enabled devices, it is certainly advisable to understand the differences between the host and routing functions:

  • Host Functions: the ability to be inserted in an IPv6 network and managed using the classic protocols (over IPv6). For instance, ICMP, Telnet, Syslog, DNS. L2 devices such as the Catalyst 2960 (LAN Base) already include this type of functionality.
  • Routing Functions: the ability to route IPv6 packets. Support starts on the Catalyst 3560 series for Cisco L3 Switches (specifically in the IP Services feature set).

Given that Layer 2 Switching, in most environments,  is a suitable choice for the access layer,  you do not need to upgrade your entire base to L3 just to support v6. Deploying L2 (with IPv6 host functions) in the access layer, with IPv6 routing capabilities in the distribution and core layers, will typically guarantee a smooth transition to v6.

As a reference, a list of the IPv6 host features available in the Catalyst 2960 family (LAN Base image) is presented below:

  • Telnet and SSH for remote access to the CLI
  • HTTP and HTTPS for graphical management of the switches
  • DNS for name resolution over IPv6 (AAAA records)
  • TFTP for file transfer (OS images and configuration files)
  • SNMP and Syslog
  • ICMPv6 (including Ping and the Neighbor Discovery processes)
  • Stateless Autoconfiguration over IPv6
  • A small number of IPv6 Static Routes (to give you flexibility on reaching the switch from a management perspective). This is not intended to be used as an IPv6 router.

** Further Reading:

** Related Posts:

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