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Network World - For the last year, it's been all quiet on the IPv6 front in the United States. But now the U.S. government is making noise about this next-generation Internet technology, as it forges ahead with plans to deploy secure, IPv6-enabled network services.
In June 2008, all federal agencies met an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) deadline to demonstrate that their backbone networks were IPv6 capable.
A few weeks ago, the Federal CIO Council issued a road map that disclosed the next steps agencies should be taking toward IPv6 deployment.
The road map says every federal CIO should develop a business case for IPv6 and integrate IPv6 into their agency's enterprise architecture and capital investment plans.
"Like other areas of strategic investment which lead to new levels of productivity, greater mission successes and citizen access to government, IPv6 integration must be prioritized at the agency level and executed in a well planned, phased approach with success criteria measurements and alignment with other key government [IT] initiatives," the report states.
Pete Tseronis, Federal IPv6 Working Group Chair and Deputy Associate CIO of the Department of Energy, says the road map is designed to keep federal CIOs, enterprise architects and policymakers focused on investing in Internet infrastructure. Tseronis helped develop the road map.
"We can't keep operating in an IPv4 world when we're talking about sensor networks, wireless communications and mobile networks," Tseronis says. "We need more IP addresses – globally unique IP addresses — and that's what IPv6 provides…We need a target network architecture that's scalable, secure and stable."
The road map says federal CIOs need to develop concrete plans to deploy IPv6 and that they will be required to provide quarterly progress reports that include IPv6 to OMB.
"For those who may think that IPv6 is on ice, it's anything but," Tseronis says. He adds that in order for an agency to receive a green light from OMB on its enterprise architecture, it will need a strategy for deploying secure IPv6-enabled network services followed by IPv6-enabled applications.
"Agencies are being assessed on their progression towards IPv6," Tseronis says. "Agencies are on the hook to deploy IPv6."
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. IPv4 uses 32-bit IP addresses, which means it can support only 4.3 billion individually addressable devices on the Internet. In contrast, IPv6 uses 128-bit IP addresses to support an almost-limitless number of individually addressable devices. IPv6 also includes built-in IP security mechanisms, easier network configuration and enhanced support for mobile devices.
The U.S. government's pro-IPv6 report is coming out at a time when few carriers or network equipment vendors are talking about next-generation Internet technology. Because of a weak global economy, the issues of Internet scaling and enabling new services have taken a backseat to cutting costs, ekeing out profits and surviving the downturn.