NTT America is hoping that the saying from the movie "Field of Dreams" is true: If you build it, they will come. As the long-time leader in IPv6 deployment in the United States, NTT America is ready for a flood of U.S. government and business customers to upgrade to the next-generation of the Internet's main communications protocol. NTT America was the first carrier to offer commercial IPv6 transit service in 2001, and it was the first to offer IPv6-enabled firewalls in 2005. Now NTT America is inking deals with hosting companies such as The Planet and working on managed security services. Network World National Correspondent Carolyn Duffy Marsan recently interviewed Kazuhiro Gomi, CTO of NTT America. Here are excerpts from their conversation:
What is the state of IPv6 deployment by the Japanese government?
I'm not a representative of the Japanese government, so what I tell you may not be very comprehensive, but I know of the major activities that the Japanese government has done. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which is like the FCC-equivalent of the Japanese government, had one of the biggest initiatives, which started out in 2003. It was a three-year project involving all the academic, industry and government sectors trying to show the world what IPv6 can do and to develop a couple of applications. The applications developed included a gas meter telemetry application, some sensor networks through which environmental measurements were calculated and sharing of medical information connecting different clinics in the city with rural villages. The government also put out some tax incentives for hardware vendors to develop IPv6 routers and switches. They put out guidance for federal agencies that all the government network equipment should be IPv6 compliant.
Does the Japanese government have a timeframe for its agencies to adopt IPv6?
I haven't seen anything specific. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications issued in April 2007 a guideline for IPv6 adoption for electronic government systems. It's very technically oriented, and it's mainly a security policy. There are some assessments about the cost benefits of implementing IPv6 as well as some cost increases with IPv6. It's a pretty comprehensive guideline for the government systems department people to consider.
Are Japanese government agencies buying IPv6 services?
I haven't heard of anything big from the government side procuring IPv6 services. It's mostly test beds or research projects.
What are you seeing in terms of IPv6 adoption in the commercial sector in Japan?
There are more private sector initiatives rather than government sector initiatives. At NTT, we have been providing IPv6 DSL services since 2004. So right now, those who subscribe to DSL or Fiber to the Home get an IPv6 address automatically. We're providing dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 service. Those who want IPv6 service get global connectivity to reach out to the world.
What's your ballpark estimate on how many Japanese consumers use your IPv6 service?
A couple thousand.
Are there any particular applications driving interest among Japanese consumers in IPv6?
We provide different video on demand kind of systems, and we've implemented quality of service on that. That's one application that has driven IPv6 implementation in Japan. Another one is an earthquake early alert system. I wouldn't say that it has been a driver of IPv6, but it certainly has enhanced awareness of IPv6 in Japan. This is a system run by the Japanese meteorological agency, which is trying to send a warning to the people when an earthquake happens. What the system is trying to do is 10 or 20 seconds after an earthquake is detected by central servers at the ministry, to let everybody know that a big earthquake is coming so people can hide or stay away from a danger area. IPv6 plays in quite nicely with this system, which is using multicast. Any of the devices that run this application start beeping and flashing to let people know that an earthquake is coming. If you subscribe to IPv6, this is one application you can use.
How would you compare what the Japanese government is doing to encourage IPv6 deployment versus the U.S. government [which has a mandate for all agencies to enable IPv6 on their backbone networks by June 2008]?
The Japanese government is playing the role of facilitator and promoting commercial or consumer-based applications. The U.S. government is focused on how to implement IPv6 on their own systems. The approach is a little bit different.
What do you think will be the return on investments made in IPv6?
We are the first service provider and still the only one who can do commercial IPv6 services around the world. This is a very clear differentiator for [us.] In terms of return on investment, we can say that's a big return for us.
What about for your customers?
In the United States, most of the customers we have are using IPv6 for their own development and experiments. They're trying to test out the additional address space and ease the management of their networks. I don't think we have any customers who are really using it for their internal corporate systems yet.
What trends are you seeing in demand for IPv6 services?
It's still slow. People's interest on this new technology is getting higher. All the warnings from [American Registry for Internet Numbers], RIPE [the European registry] and JPNIC [Japan Network Information Center] about IPv4 address depletion really caught everybody's eye, especially in Japan. Everybody in Japan is in crunch mode on IPv4. Many of the ISPs in Japan are worrying about their future if they keep hanging on to IPv4. Next year, they will have allocated all the IPv4 address space in Japan. So the timing has pretty much come for them.
We seem to be in a recession. Do you think that will slow IPv6 adoption?
It's an interesting thought. Regardless of the economic situation, if you're in a country like Japan you got to do this within the next year or two. So I would say, IPv6 will come. And when it comes, it will be like an avalanche that spreads out quite quickly. It will come as a big wave.
We've talked about IPv6 rollouts in Japan and the United States. What are you seeing in the rest of the world?
The U.S. and Japan are the major two areas where we have customers in IPv6. We have a very small number of customers in Europe. In Australia, we have a couple academic customers. We have some ISP customers in Latin America, so we have conversations with those ISPs about IPv6. Their awareness is very, very low.
As I continue to cover IPv6 developments, what should I be looking for to be able to tell when IPv6 reaches the tipping point?
Growth in the number of subscribers in all the different networks. Also, when it comes to the U.S. market, are there any local ISPs or cable companies who are going to launch IPv6 services? The Planet has announced IPv6 hosting services. How many other hosting companies will follow that company? That will be interesting to watch.