Survey: Little enthusiasm for IPv6 among U.S. federal gov't. IT bosses

* Survey finds IPv6's awareness and interest lag behind need for new 'Net protocol

More than a decade after it was developed, IPv6 has yet to gain much interest or enthusiasm among U.S. federal government IT officials despite their stated need for many of its features, a recent survey has found.

IPv6 is the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. IPv6 offers many technical benefits when compared to IPv4, including easier administration, tighter security and an enhanced addressing scheme.

IPv6, which uses a 128-bit addressing scheme, supports a virtually limitless number of uniquely identified systems on the 'Net, while IPv4 supports only a few billion systems because it uses a 32-bit addressing scheme.

Despite its many advantages for network managers, IPv6 has attracted few customers in the U.S. The U.S. Defense Department is one of the first organizations to commit to IPv6 migration. Other early adopters include Defense contractors and high-tech equipment vendors such as Cray, an MCI customer, and Juniper, a Verio customer. 

Even with a strong endorsement by the Defense Department - which represents half of the federal IT budget - IPv6 is attracting low levels of interest among federal IT buyers, according to a survey of 349 federal government and industry IT decisionmakers that was sponsored by Juniper.

Only 7% of survey respondents consider IPv6 "very important" to achieving their IT goals, and 60% of respondents report that IPv6 will play no role in helping them achieve their IT goals or that they are unsure if it will help.

Ignorance of IPv6 abounds, the survey found. More than 40% of respondents say IPv6 is not being discussed within their organizations. Meanwhile, 64% of respondents do not have a written transition plan to IPv6, and another 27% are unsure if they have such a transition plan.

As expected, Defense Department respondents were more positive about IPv6. More than 40% of Defense respondents said IPv6 was very or somewhat important to achieving their IT goals compared with 27% of civilian agency respondents. Similarly, 12% of Defense respondents have a written IPv6 transition plan compared to 4% of civilian agency respondents.

Rod Murchison, a senior director of product management at Juniper, called the results of the survey sobering. "Awareness of IPv6 outside [the military and homeland security environments] is surprisingly low," he says.

However, survey respondents placed a high priority on network management issues that IPv6 can help address. For example, more than 80% of the respondents said their top priorities include improving QoS, improving and simplifying cybersecurity and improving network management. IPv6 can help with all three of these areas.

Murchison called this education gap between what federal IT officials want and what IPv6 can provide quite wide.

"There are good technical and business-oriented problems to solve with IPv6," Murchison says. "IPv6 awareness is still low, but key IT concerns map well to IPv6 capabilities...We need to do a better job at educating customers."

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