Are You Ready for IPv6?

By Chris Crotteau, Cisco-Certified Engineer, Curvature

One of the current pressing issues in networking is the upcoming exhaustion of the IPv4 address space. Within a year or two, it will be very likely that all available, valid IPv4 addresses will be assigned. Once this point is reached, the only way for people who want a public IP address will be to get IPv6 addressing.  This creates a few concerns regarding networking devices. The two main concerns are:

  • Licensing – some devices will need an IOS license upgrade to gain access to IPv6 features, which can raise the cost of a device considerably
  • Performance – some hardware-based forwarding platforms do not support IPv6 in hardware, leading to very poor IPv6 performance

Below is a list of devices that both support IPv6 in hardware and also do not require additional IOS licensing for this support.


When we discuss IPv6 support in switches, we are discussing L3 switches. Switching functionality is performed via MAC address, and as such, any switch model will be able to switch IPv6 packets in hardware. Routing functionality is where IPv6 support comes into play.

Catalyst 3560 and Catalyst 3750 switches
All Catalyst 3560/3750 switches have hardware support for IPv6 forwarding, and starting in IOS version 12.2(50)SE, all IOS versions for these switches now supports IPv6, including IPBASE. See this page for details

3560 Switches Get a quote
3560 Switches Get a quote

Catalyst 4500 Switches
In the Cat4500 line, IPv6 forwarding in hardware is found on the WS-X45-Sup6-E and WS-X45-SUP6L-E supervisors, and like Cisco's other current L3 switching platforms, IPv6 features are found in IPBASE. Beware, though, as older supervisors do not provide hardware forwarding of IPv6 data, resulting in very poor IPv6 performance.

4500 Switches Get a quote

Catalyst 4900 switches
The Catalyst 4900M and Catalyst 4948E switches are the IPv6-capable platforms in the 4900 series. Both of these switches support IPv6 in all IOS images, so there is no need for an additional IOS license, either. Like the Cat4500, though, the older WS-C4948 and WS-C4948-10GE switches do not provide IPv6 forwarding in hardware.

4900 Switches Get a quote

Catalyst 6500 switches

Starting in IOS version 12.2(33)SXI, Cisco added IPv6 features to all IOS versions, including IPBASE and IP Services. See this page for details.

The Catalyst 6500, with its large amount of hardware forwarding resources, is very well suited for demanding IPv4 + IPv6 environments, especially when deployed with a Sup720-3BXL or VS-S720-10G-3CXL. However, the still-popular Sup2 does not support IPv6 in hardware, making it completely unsuitable for an IPv6 deployment.

6500 Switches Get a quote

Dell Networking

With the exception of the S2410 (since it is L2 only), all of Dell Networking's switching products support IPv6 forwarding in hardware.

Dell Networking Products Get a quote



1900/2900/3900 Series
The ISR G2 routers now support IPv6 in IPBASE. Being small routers, there is no hardware compatibility to worry about; IPv6 support is determined only by features provided in the IOS versions. Note that the still-current but older 1800/2800/3800 routers require the purchase of an IOS license (SP Services to be specific) for IPv6 support.

1900 Series Get a quote
2900 Series Get a quote
3900 Series Get a quote

Cisco 7200 Series
When using an NPE-400, NPE-G1, or NPE-G2, the 7200 series will support IPv6 in IPBASE, starting in 12.4T IOS versions. Like the small routers, the 7200 is not a hardware forwarding platform, so IOS version is the only concern here. Note that older NPEs, like the NPE-225 and NPE-300, are not supported by these newer IOS releases.

7200 Series Get a quote

Cisco 7600 Series

For very high (10Gbps+) IPv6 performance, the CISCO7600 series, especially when coupled with an RSP720 part (such as the RSP720-3CXL-10GE), is one of our best offerings. Starting with IOS 12.2(33)SRE, IPv6 features are part of all IOS versions.

7600 Series Get a quote

There are many more platforms that support IPv6. Call us at 1-800-230-6638 for more information.