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Will feds commit to another IPv6 mandate?

Industry urges Obama to enforce a deadline for federal Web sites to support next-gen Internet

By , Network World
September 28, 2010 09:57 AM ET

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The government's role "is to enable their Web sites with IPv6," says John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN  and another speaker at the NTIA IPv6 workshop. "We can't use IPv6 alone to connect customers to the Internet. We will need transition technology beside it until the vast amount of Internet content is available over IPv6 and IPv4."

Curran says agencies need to provide access to IPv6 content with the same speed and reliability as they are currently serving up IPv4 content. That means using a dual-stack architecture with IPv4 and IPv6 running side-by-side rather than translation mechanisms  that worsen end users' experience. Otherwise, agencies may disenfranchise end users with lower-quality service, and they will be able to gather less information about their Web site visitors.

"To the extent that agencies have their Web sites on IPv4 and IPv6, they will provide the same experience to their viewers as they have today. The end users will have the end-to-end experience, and they will know where the end users are coming from as long as they have a unique address and no translation devices in the middle," Curran says. But if they don't adopt IPv6 directly, agencies "won't have access to the end user's information, which will impact advertising, locating users for geo-specific content, and profiling end users for security," he adds.

Danny McPherson, vice president for research and development at .com and .net operator VeriSign, is urging Web site operators including federal agencies to adopt a dual-stack architecture. McPherson is providing an overview of IP addressing to the attendees at the NTIA IPv6 workshop Tuesday.

"The sooner people deploy IPv6 and the better prepared they are for the transition, the better people will be able to handle IPv4 depletion," McPherson says. "Transitional co-existence of IPv4 and IPv6 is going to happen for a long, long time. A lot of IPv4 devices are never going to support IPv6…IPv6 readiness planning is imperative, and it needs to happen within your current budgeting and operational deployment cycles."

McPherson says that if federal agencies set a deadline for IPv6-enabling their Web sites, "it would be great because they'd be setting an example. It's a way for the government to show that we think this is important because we're putting these dollars behind it."

By being an early adopter of IPv6, the U.S. federal government can encourage IT vendors to improve the IPv6 features and interoperability of their products, says Nabil Bitar, a principal member of the technical staff for packet network technology at Verizon. Bitar is another panelist at NTIA's IPv6 workshop.

"The government is a consumer of products and equipment from the same vendors that we get our equipment from," Bitar says. "By the federal government trying to procure equipment that is IPv6 capable and passing that message to the vendors, that will help put products in the marketplace that are truly field-ready for IPv6."

Bitar says the federal government also can push IPv6 adoption when it leads by example.

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