IPv6 ice breaker

Lockheed Martin to begin transition, blazing a path for government customers to follow

EARLY WARNING: Lockheed Martin officals say one potential benefit of the company's IPv6 tests could be to help the Defense Department achieve its network-centric vision.

Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin is transitioning segments of its Global Vision Network to IPv6 to help develop a road map for government customers in their transition.

'The federal government is our largest client,' said Frank Cuccias, director
of Lockheed Martin's IPv6 Center of Excellence.

The company provides information technology services and support in addition to advanced weapons systems ' and its government customers are concerned about the challenge of moving to IPv6, Cuccias said. They are looking to vendors for expertise to help them avoid pitfalls. 'The first thing they're going to ask is, 'Have you done it yourself?' '

So during the next few months, the company will be making the transition at 10 sites in California, Florida, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and the United Kingdom. The goal will be to validate best practices, learn the lessons needed to transition the rest of the network and provide those lessons to federal customers, Cuccias said.

IPv6 is the next generation of IP, which defines how IT systems communicate and interoperate. The new protocols were developed to replace IPv4 and provide greater functionality, security and a vastly expanded address space than is available today on IP networks, particularly the Internet.

Deployment of IPv6 is in its early stages, but the Defense Department years ago recognized the advanced functionality of the new protocol as necessary to its vision of network-centric warfare. The department made a commitment to move its networks to IPv6 by next year. The Office of Management and Budget followed suit in 2005, mandating that civilian agencies enable their core networks for IPv6 by June 2008.

Although some Asian countries ' most notably Japan and South Korea ' and Europe to a lesser extent have already begun initiatives to implement IPv6, most efforts still are in the pilot stages, and few applications have taken full advantage of the new protocol. The United States boasts the largest permanently deployed multivendor IPv6 network, the Moonv6 test bed operated by the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory, the North American IPv6 Task Force, Internet2 and the U.S. government.

The InterOperability Lab recently began conducting IPv6-enabled applications on Moonv6 as a step toward moving the protocol from the backbone into the enterprise (GCN.com/834). Although its use could be limited for several years, agencies are working to enable IPv6 on core network backbones by the 2008 deadline.

Cuccias said Lockheed Martin has been studying the new protocols for years.
'Back in 2000, we saw IPv6 on the radar for the government space,' and the company developed the Center of Excellence, a collection of subject matter experts and laboratories, to bring the technology in-house and begin studying it, Cuccias said.
Despite the years of study, even experts are humbled by the complexities of implementing the new set of protocol on major networks.

'There is always much more to learn,' Cuccias said. 'We are students and advocates of IPv6 at the same time.'

The decision to transition a portion of its own network as a test bed for government customers came from a government agency worried about its transition, Cuccias said. An agency official said the approaching transition made him feel like one in a group of penguins lined up to dive into the water, not knowing if a predator was waiting below the surface.

First penguin

'He told me, 'I don't want to be that first penguin,' ' Cuccias said.
Government customers will be able to bring their own applications and equipment onto the network for testing. 'These guys don't want to spend millions of dollars and duplicate seven years of research,' he said. 'This is going to save them an awful lot of time.'

Cuccias said much of the groundwork already has been done and that the selected sites are expected to be IPv6-enabled by October. Eventually, the entire Global Vision Network will transition.

'Some of our labs do classified work,' he said. A lot of testing will be done to examine the security on the new network, conducting attacks from the inside and the outside. 'That way, we can better understand how to protect the information on the network.'

Because most applications use IPv4, the two protocols will have to coexist on networks for the foreseeable future. The Lockheed Martin pilot program will contain dual-stack segments running both IPv4 and IPv6 in addition to native IPv6 segments. It will test IPv6-enabled applications, such as e-mail, voice and video over IP, and collaboration tools, and older mainframe applications.

'We want to see how it works,' Cuccias said.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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