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Federal mandate to boost IPv6, but ...

By , Network World
August 01, 2005 12:09 AM ET

Network World - The federal government's mandated move to IPv6 over the next few years is expected to also spur demand for the upgraded protocol in portions of the private sector.

However, many enterprise network executives, with no equivalent of a government mandate to force adoption, will still need a good reason to make the switch, experts say.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plans to set policy soon that will compel all federal agencies to upgrade their network backbones to IPv6 by 2008, with the expectation that upgrading applications and other components will follow. The OMB is charged with supervising the effectiveness of programs, policies and procedures set by agencies in the executive branch, among other things.

The Department of Defense required its own upgrade to IPv6 by 2008 and is working with the protocol. But other federal agencies have little experience with or interest in IPv6, even though the protocol is 10 years old and touted by some as the basis for the next-generation Internet.

Nonetheless, with agencies forced to upgrade, government contractors, hardware and software vendors, and service providers will need to make sure their offerings are updated, too. And that could spur adoption in the commercial world.

"If the government deployed IPv6 on a worldwide basis, I believe that would create a great catalyst and wonderful assistance to the promotion and deployment of IPv6 in the commercial sector," says Jim Bound, chair of the North American IPv6 Task Force, a volunteer group established to promote the adoption and deployment of IPv6. "I believe enterprises are in tune and aware of IPv6 today."

Glacial progress
Department of Defense aside, only a handful of the 24 largest federal agencies have done any IPv6 preparation.

Performed an inventory of IPv6-capable equipment: Performed inventory, established a business case, estimated cost:
Department of State National Science Foundation
Department of Transportation  
Small Business Administration  
SOURCE: GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
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Yet others say if the federal agencies that will be forced to upgrade to IPv6 in less than three years aren't yet sold on the protocol's benefits, private-sector organizations that aren't under such pressure are even less convinced. A recent study of 349 government and industry IT decision makers sponsored by Juniper indicated 7% consider the protocol "very important" to achieving their IT goals.

The government's move to IPv6 "is going to resonate with companies, if only from the perspective that large technology-support companies will have to migrate to understand what their customers are doing," says David Lane, a contractor working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). "If your user base starts using a protocol, then your back end has to be converted . . . so it will trickle down, but I don't think it will be a big bang."

However, it has happened in the past that when the government requires a technology be used by its agencies, the commercial sector falls in line.

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