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The sorry state of federal IPv6 support

99% of US government websites don't support IPv6, with 5 months left until Obama administration mandate applies

By , Network World
April 18, 2012 04:39 PM ET

Network World - U.S. federal government agencies must meet an aggressive deadline of Sept. 30, 2012, to deploy IPv6 on their public-facing websites, under an Obama administration initiative. But with less than five months to go, more than 99% of federal websites aren't supporting the next-gen Internet Protocol on their DNS, email and Web services.

The Obama administration issued a directive in the fall of 2010 that requires agencies to support IPv6 on their public-facing Web services by the end of this federal fiscal year. There is a second step to the Obama administration mandate that requires agencies to support IPv6 on their internal, operational networks by Sept. 30, 2014. It's unclear what the consequences of not meeting the mandates will be.

BACKGROUND: Fed's IPv6 plan called a "game changer"

Experts say federal IPv6 deployment has lagged due to a lack of support for the emerging standard by government contractors, including carriers and content delivery networks as well as their network equipment suppliers.

"Agencies are supposed to have the general Internet-based services that are available to citizens support IPv6," said Dale Geesey, COO at government contractor Auspex Technologies, at last week's North American IPv6 Summit in Denver. "It's a big challenge from a federal perspective."

Geesey said the Federal CIO Council has an IPv6 task force that meets weekly and that agency IPv6 transition managers are meeting monthly to help the government hit this aggressive goal. "We continue to move forward," he said.

A survey conducted weekly by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows that only five organizations have successfully deployed IPv6 on their DNS, email and websites as required by the mandate. These organizations are: the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Defense Research and Engineering Network, Defense High Performance Computing, and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

In total, only 10 out of 1,565 domains operated by federal agencies were able to pass NIST's tests for IPv6 support on DNS, email and Web this week. That's not even 1% of the total number of domains tested.

Ron Broersma, DREN chief engineer, told the North American IPv6 Summit audience that IPv6 is ready for deployment. "Security and performance of IPv6 is equivalent to IPv4," he said. "IPv6 deployment doesn't have to be costly if you use tech refresh and if you don't procrastinate."

Broersma said one challenge for federal agencies is that some of the carriers that they are required to use through the Networx contract are not providing sufficient IPv6 services. Networx is an umbrella telecommunications contract that federal agencies must use to purchase voice, video and data services.

"There are some carriers on the Networx contract lacking IPv6. One won't have it until the end of the calendar year," Broersma said. "Some federal agencies may need to switch ISPs, which is a pretty big deal."

Broersma said that two federal network security efforts -- the Trusted Internet Connect (TIC) Initiative and Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS) -- also are behind on deploying IPv6.

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