The second phase of your IPv6 adoption plan: Training
In my previous post https://community.infoblox.com/blogs/2015/01/19/kick-2015-first-phase-your-ipv6-plan-assessment I went over in detail the first phase of your IPv6 adoption plan, the assessment. You can find the original post that covers the overall topic about IPv6 adoption at https://community.infoblox.com/blogs/2014/10/28/first-steps-ipv6-adoption-having-plan. Next, I wanted to tackle the second phase in the plan, training.
A training plan is going to be important for several reasons.
- First, it allows you to introduce the topic of IPv6 to a wide group of individuals within your company. The explicit goal of training them is to build fundamental skills around IPv6.
- Second, you can add it as a career tracked skillset so you can accurately know how much progress (or lack of progress) you and your team are making.
- Third, it allows your team to better understand the impacts that IPv6 might have in further adoption phases like planning and design or proof of concept.
The level and breadth of IPv6 training you provide will determine how much vendor and consulting help you will require in getting IPv6 deployed and widely adopted. Training needs can vary widely depending on what an organization needs from its staff. As a general rule of thumb most training involves a basic introductory IPv6 session that takes several days at a minimum. Good introductory training includes some hands on labs of some kind to help reinforce the basic principles and build familiarity in using the protocol. You should expect in the hands on labs things like basic IPv6 for:
- Networking on router and switches
- Security on firewalls
- Host configurations
- Core infrastructure services like DHCP, DNS and IPAM
As with everything, practice will help to reinforce what you have learned so having at least a small pilot or lab for your teams will be a big win.
One pitfall you will want to avoid is doing training too early. If your training happens to far in advance and no one gets to use the new knowledge in a timely manner they will forget the information. This is to be expected so timing is really important. Not too soon, not too late, it has to be just right!
From here the options vary. If you are a technical engineering development team you might require training around programming and APIs for IPv6 and how to patch, upgrade or maintain custom code to accommodate IPv6. If you are an IT operations team perhaps you need training on advanced networking (for a specific platform), operating systems or security. Remember, all the departments that might potentially deal with IPv4 information will need to be trained on IPv6. For example, besides what I have mentioned already you might have to train the helpdesk, database, storage, unified communications, logging, wireless, inventory and asset management teams, just to name a few. If someone is dealing with IPv4 in anyway now, they will need at a minimum basic IPv6 training. That can be a lot of people in a reasonably sized enterprise organization.
Regardless, training your teams will become critical for making informed decisions about IPv6 impacts. It will also allow you to better understand the assessment reports that were produced as part of the IPv6 assessment you or a third party did.
Some companies choose to do the training prior to the assessment, especially if they use their own staff to do the assessment phase. This can be a reasonable approach if you have enough time and realize that your team needs more than basic IPv6 training to add value in the assessment phase. However, they will have needed to complete advanced IPv6 training and likely had extensive lab time to truly be qualified to do a proper IPv6 assessment. This is where hiring a qualified third party to do the assessment while you are providing training for your staff might be the most cost effective option in the long run.
The reality is your team is likely made up of specialized members who are more vertically qualified in a unique skill set. It would be important that they build an equal set of skills with IPv6 as with IPv4 in their particular area of expertise. If they do not have these skills it is important to hire consulting specialist who do. Often in-house specialty-skilled individuals may not be as well versed as the consultants who are performing the assessment meaning they will need help in making accurate decisions. This is why, at a minimum everyone needs to attend the basic IPv6 training. Otherwise they lack the common language and understanding to communicate about IPv6 effectively.
So, what sort of IPv6 training is right for your team?
There are a variety of training options and I don’t want to give preference to one over the other. There are so many options because there is a need for each. Let’s briefly review some options and where I think they fit.
- Online blog, wiki or vendor training is a great way to get introduced to the overall topic of IPv6. It is not uncommon that many first get started working on IPv6 by reading blog sites or a vendor site to figure out how to set something up. These often do not provide in depth training but rather a quick snippet of how to do something with IPv6.
- Online video or audio training is a more formal way to get training. These can be screencasts that cover the material in a structured fashion or they can be a full formal course with an instructor. Both are an excellent option if you are comfortable learning this way (and perhaps working independently on your own labs).
- Formal classroom training through a training provider which may or may not be vendor focused. This is the most common method for post education training around topics like IPv6. Many of the training companies you are familiar with already provide IPv6 training. Ascolta(now ITT Tech) at https://cpd.itt-tech.edu/, New Horizons http://www.newhorizons.com/ have IPv6 content, and others may as well. IPv6 is not mainstream enough yet (the way IPv4 is) that it is an assumed skill that everyone needs so it is often left out of other training content. By this I mean, if you take a training class on OSPF routing it may or may not include IPv6 in the course. As a general rule of thumb, any course on networking that leaves out IPv6 should not be considered acceptable. An example of a vendor course which does include IPv6 would be Cisco providing an IPv6 Fundamentals Course which is focused on their routing and switching platforms. You can find information at http://tools.cisco.com/GlobalLearningLocator/courseDetails.do?actionType=executeCourseDetail&courseI...
- Technical Expert (custom training) through a professional consulting company like Groupware Technology http://www.groupwaretechnology.com or GTRI http://www.gtri.com where I and Scott Hogg work respectively. You want to make sure you have a true technical expert teaching you for these courses. Do not be confused with special on-site version of the formal classroom training from the big training providers. Unfortunately, most of those training providers don’t have true IPv6 experts on staff to teach their classes. Also the content they use for training is often not developed by technical experts either, which can be disappointing as it can includes errors or not be current and accurate. The big difference here is that with a professional consulting company that specializes in IPv6 you are getting customized training by an industry expert built to your needs. This option is expensive but often worth it in terms of the quality of content and the depth of knowledge of the individual teaching it. Also, it is not uncommon that they will provide all the training on-site so you reduce travel expenses for your company while maximizing the number of individuals being trained.
Once you decide what training is right for you and your team, get it scheduled right away. You don’t want to delay getting your team comfortable with IPv6 and the earlier you start the less scary it becomes for them (keep in mind my caution above). Over time, you and your team will simply take IPv6 in stride, just like IPv4, and it will not need special project status. This is where operational experience with IPv6 will be incredibly important.
This naturally leads into the next phase for your IPv6 adoption plan; Planning and design. When your team is comfortable with IPv6 they are capable of doing things like planning and designing on the company’s behalf. It is not uncommon to have a technical IPv6 expert help on a bigger IPv6 project but that isn’t necessarily needed for many who simply want to get a clear plan and a reference design done. Design needs can vary widely between organizations and I will cover both planning and design in my next blog post.
IPv6 is the future and the future is now!
It is 2015, go get IPv6 training!