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Feds strike deal on IPv6 testing

Cisco pushed for self-certification, while labs wanted third-party testing requirement

By , Network World
July 27, 2009 08:03 AM ET

Network World - The U.S. government has reportedly struck a compromise between network vendors and independent test labs with its plan to launch a comprehensive product testing program for IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol.

The USGv6 Test Program, run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, requires all network hardware and software vendors to pass IPv6 compliance and interoperability tests before they can sell their wares to the U.S. federal government, which is the world’s largest IT market.

The target date for network vendors to conform with NIST’s IPv6 test suite is July 2010.

Network vendors such as Cisco were pushing for the ability to certify their own products as complying with the USGv6 Test Program, while independent test labs such as the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory and ICSA Labs wanted a role in the program.

NIST has decided that vendors will be allowed to run IPv6 compliance tests in their own labs as long as the labs are accredited by NIST, but they must run IPv6 interoperability testing in someone else's lab.

``There's been a lot of discussions with vendors about what they will be required to do, what needs to be done in-house versus in outside labs,’’ says Erica Johnson, Director of UNH-IOL. ``The way that the NIST profile is going to work is that conformance testing can be done in an accredited first-party [vendor], second-party [buyer] or third-party [independent] lab...But the interoperability testing must be done in a second-party or third-party lab.’’

NIST will use the ISO 17025 accreditation process for vendor, buyer and independent labs.

``The compromise is that NIST will allow self-certification for conformance testing as long as the vendor becomes accredited to maintain the integrity of the testing,’’ Johnson said. ``They’ll use the same test spec and will be getting the same results.’’

NIST is expected to publish this week [July 31] the final version of its IPv6 test specifications – known as Special Publication 500-273 -- which will include this delineation of testing duties between vendors and outside labs.

IPv6 is the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, known as IPv4. IPv6 features vastly more address space, built-in security and enhanced support for streaming media and peer-to-peer applications. Available for a decade, IPv6 has been slow to catch on in the United States. Now that unallocated IPv4 addresses are expected to run out in 2011, the pressure is on U.S. carriers, corporations and government agencies to deploy IPv6 in the next few years.

The compromise on the U.S. federal government’s IPv6 testing requirements is good news for vendors such as Cisco, which has been pushing for self-assessment in the USGv6 Test Program.

``The simpler it is for vendors to meet the requirements, the better,’’ said Dan Kent, director of systems engineering for Cisco Federal. ``We're for self-assessment. We have ways of validating that.’’

```We test, validate and self-assess around IPv4,’’ added Dave West, director of systems engineering for Cisco's Public Sector group. ``I do believe there’s tremendous value in allowing, with the right procedures and oversight, vendors to have those kind of test labs so they can, in fact, self assess around IPv6.’’

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