MCI is providing a direct connection between its commercial Internet backbone and Moonv6, the world's largest test bed running IPv6, an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol.
The company says the move brings it one step closer to offering commercial IPv6 service in the U.S. Currently, the only ISP in the country that offers this capability is NTT Verio .
An MCI spokesman says the ISP "today offers IPv6 capabilities on a custom basis in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We are preparing the network to deliver IPv6 on a wider scale."
MCI last week announced that it joined Moonv6, a joint operation of the University of New Hampshire, the U.S. Defense Department, the North American IPv6 Task Force and the Internet2 university consortium. The IPv6 test bed links approximately 80 servers, switches and routers in sites from New Hampshire to California.
Developed by the IETF, IPv6 promises easier administration, tighter security and an enhanced addressing scheme when compared with IPv4, the Internet's current protocol. IPv6, which uses a 128-bit addressing scheme, supports a virtually limitless number of uniquely identified systems on the 'Net.
Other service providers, including AT&T, Chunghwa Telecom, France Telecom, KDDI and NTT, have participated in previous Moonv6 tests. However, MCI is the first ISP to directly connect its commercial Internet backbone to the Moonv6 test bed via a high-speed OC-3 link.
MCI's connection between its metropolitan-area exchange network points and Moonv6 means that test bed participants can measure how well their products perform over native IPv6 links instead of tunneling IPv6 traffic over standard IPv4 pipes.
"Previous connections [to Moonv6] were not actual production networks, but rather non-commercial research networks," says Ben Schultz, who oversees Moonv6 testing as managing engineer at the University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Laboratory. "Overall, it's a significant milestone for IPv6."
Cisco, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, Lucent and Microsoft have been testing their IPv6 hardware and software products on the Moonv6 backbone.
"Prior to this announcement, anyone who wanted to participate in Moonv6 had to place equipment in New Hampshire, provision a circuit to New Hampshire or tunnel over Internet 2," explains Tom Bechly, director of enterprise network engineering at MCI. "Our MAE services is a Layer 2 national overlay. We provisioned a circuit from our [point of presence] in New York to the New Hampshire lab. We extended the reach of the test bed to any of our locations so that any of our MAE customers can participate natively for IPv6 testing."
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