DOD research network tries out IPv6 access

The Defense Department's High Performance Computing Modernization Program is testing IPv6 connectivity for remote users of the Defense Research and Engineering Network.

DREN is one of two DOD networks piloting the department's transition to the next-generation Internet Protocol. Three Migration Broker access servers from Hexago Inc. of Sainte-Foy, Quebec, will help DREN start up IPv6 while 90 percent of networks still are using IPv4.

'To accomplish our primary mission of high-capacity bandwidth and low latency, DREN must move aggressively to provide leading-edge services,' DREN program manager Rodger Johnson said.

Most networks today use IP Version 4. But Version 6, developed during the 1990s, has better security, more address space and better handling of mobile connections.

DOD has said its entire IT infrastructure will shift to IPv6 by fiscal 2008.

The two versions of IP are largely incompatible. Most operating systems and many applications can now use the new protocol, although many existing network devices cannot.

Migration Broker sets up a secure IPv6 tunnel across IPv4 networks. It sits at the edge of an IPv6 network and negotiates connections with the remote user's client software.

The IPv6 packets are encapsulated inside IPv4 packets for the trip across the tunnel. That lets the connections work behind network address translation devices, which organizations use to share increasingly scarce IPv4 addresses. The Migration Broker also can work in reverse, providing access on an IPv6 network to legacy IPv4 applications.

Because the two versions of IP will co-exist on the world's networks for years to come, access servers and other methods of bridging the protocols will be critically needed.

'There are innovative groups looking at how to deploy Version 6,' Hexago spokesman Barry said, and DOD is a major driver. Carriers and service providers eager to offer advanced IPv6 applications to customers also are showing interest in the broker.

Hexago packages Migration Broker as a 1U rackmount appliance. It sells for $25,000 to $35,000, depending on configuration.

About the Author

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

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