IT decision-makers in U.S. businesses and government agencies want better Internet security and easier network management, but few see the next-generation Internet Protocol called IPv6 as helping them achieve their goals, according to a survey released Tuesday by Juniper Networks.
Only 7% of 349 respondents said IPv6 is "very important" to achieve their IT goals, despite features in IPv6 that backers say will improve cybersecurity, make network management easier and improve the quality of Internet connections. Features in IPv6 will also drastically cut the costs of multicasting video over IP and could ease the transition to VoIP, said speakers at the Coalition for Summit for IPv6, in Reston, Va.
"There's an education job to be done," said Rod Murchison, senior director of product management for the Security Products Group at Juniper, a networking vendor backing IPv6.
As countries such as China and Japan embrace IPv6, the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology leadership, said Alex Lightman, chairman of the Coalition Summit for IPv6. Lightman called on Congress to mandate IPv6 adoption among federal agencies as a step toward countrywide adoption. Other countries have used mandates and tax breaks for private companies as incentives, he said.
"The U.S. government is being very stupid about doing IPv6, and it's going to put us at a disadvantage," Lightman said. "If studies like this aren't acted on... then instead of having a quarter of all the world's ISPs clustered here, around Reston, you'll have a quarter of the world's ISPs clustered around Tokyo or Beijing. I don't know if that's what the U.S. government really wants."
Losing technology leadership could cost the U.S. more than jobs, he said. "I am concerned about [ISPs clustered] in Beijing, because there are a whole lot of strings attached to ISPs," he said.
Although the U.S. Department of Defense is moving toward IPv6, other agencies are less excited about it, Lightman said. "They're not going to add this to their stack of responsibilities unless someone tells them to do so," he said.
Lightman also called for a national IPv6 coordination office in the U.S., and advocated that the U.S. government spend $10 billion in the coming years on the transition to IPv6.
Respondents of the survey, IT decision-makers with 71% in government and 29% in private industry, ranked their top IT issues as improving their quality of service, improving and simplifying cybersecurity and improving network management.
"The reality is the answer to a lot of those requirements is IPv6," Murchison said. "Our goal as an industry and a company is to bridge this gap between what IPv6 can enable and the consumer thought process."
IPv6 appears to be suffering from the misconception in the U.S. that its only benefit is greater IP address space than IPv4, commonly used today, Murchison said. In the mid-'90s, when the IPv6 standard was being developed, IP address space was promoted as the primary reason for switching to IPv6, and now that networking vendors have addressed space problems, few IT workers seem to see a need for a next-generation Internet, he said.
In the survey, 35% of respondents said the top challenge for moving to IPv6 is that there is no compelling reason to do so. Another 30% cited budget issues, while 17% worry about technical transition issues. At many companies, old networking equipment would have to be replaced in order to switch to IPv6.
But IPv6 will offer several advantages, including simpler security configuration and substantially lower costs for Web multicasting, speakers at the summit said.
Mark Bayliss, chief executive officer of Visual Link Internet, showed some attendees a side-by-side comparison of streaming video using IPv4 and IPv6, with the IPv6 video appearing much closer to a television-quality picture than the fuzzy streaming video available now to most U.S. Internet users. Computer users would need a broadband connection with at least 512Kbit/sec to enjoy the better picture. IPv6 will free television stations from expensive satellite cable connections, Bayliss said.
IPv6 features include built-in IPSec security protocols, new fields in IPv6 headers that define how Internet traffic is handled, and streamlined headers that reduce packet sizes.
In the survey, conducted in April with a 5.24% margin of error, 43% of respondents reported that IPv6 was not being discussed in their organizations, and 60% said IPv6 will play no role in helping them achieve their IT goals
Despite the low perceived need for IPv6 now, a U.S. transition should take five to 10 years, said Charles Lynch, technical director of the Department of Defense IPv6 Transition Office. Many Internet users now have low expectations for current problems with reliability and other issues, but that attitude will change, he said.
"If I get what I expect, then I'm satisfied," Lynch said. "The Internet serves all the current perceived needs of the standard user. IT developers feel a bit differently -- they have higher-end concerns."