OMB driving the IPv6 market

Task force recommends that government play a role in the protocol's rollout'within limits

"No one has attempted this level of technology insertion before. We will all be holding hands and jumping into the swimming pool together.' 'Richard Burk, OMB's chief architect

Henrik G. DeGyor

A long-delayed Commerce Department report suggests that the federal government is walking a thin line in its push toward IP Version 6 traction.


On one hand, the government shouldn't intervene in the market, but let the business requirements of agencies and companies drive the development of IPv6 products and services, a task force of public and private experts said. On the other hand, the Office of Management and Budget's plans for agencies to move to the new protocol is in a sense creating the IPv6 market.


2008 deadline

OMB mandated last summer that all agencies' network backbones migrate to IPv6 by 2008, which will help create the demand for the technology.
And with the push toward the 2008 deadline, OMB expects the products and services will spill over into private-sector industries.


'No one has attempted this level of technology insertion before,' OMB chief architect Richard Burk said at a recent conference on IPv6 sponsored by the CIO Council's Best Practices Committee. 'We will all be holding hands and jumping into the swimming pool together.'


Burk said OMB has clear reasons for mandating that agencies move to the new protocol.


Among them are that IPv6 will benefit new types of net-centric devices and services. Also, international competition from countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, which already have started to migrate, puts pressure on the United States to keep up. And by pursuing the new protocol, the government can act as a guinea pig for the rest of the country while being a market catalyst for IPv6 products and services.


The report, issued last month by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, took nearly two years to finish and calls for the government to take some specific steps. The task force said agencies should use their purchasing power to simulate vendor products and services, coordinate the development of standards, protocols and conformance tests, and participate in identifying technological and interoperability issues.
But the NTIA task force also said 'market forces should be allowed to drive the private-sector transition from IPv4 to IPv6.' The federal government should 'refrain from actions that would significantly interfere with market forces.'


Early adopter

'The government can in their adoption of IPv6 push industry as an early adopter,' said Tom Kopko, director for systems integrators for Global Crossing Ltd. of Bermuda, and chairman of the Industry Advisory Council's IPv6 committee.
But while NTIA's task force sought to let the products and services develop as the need arises, some experts believe the government should play a much larger role.
Alex Lightman, chief executive officer of Innofone.com Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., and the chairman of the IPv6 Summit, said the Commerce report takes a narrow view of federal involvement of IPv6.


'The Commerce document simply gives us the weakest possible goals,' he said. 'The government has to be a leader on the Internet, like every other government. What else could be more important than leadership on the Internet? It touches everything from financing to health care to your home.'


Putting up money

Lightman added that other governments in China, Japan and Taiwan are taking the lead in the transition to IPv6 and putting money behind it.


He said OMB needs to give agencies more money for IPv6. OMB contends, however, that agencies as a part of their normal technology refresh cycle have enough money for the transition to the new protocol.


The administration expects to get a better understanding of agencies' needs over the next few months as it analyzes their IPv6 transition plans and progress reports, which were due Feb. 28.


Burk said agencies also must detail how they will integrate IPv6 into their strategic plans and enterprise architectures. Departments had until Feb. 28 to submit their EAs, which OMB is assessing under the EA Assessment Framework 2.0.
'We will look at short-term and long-term milestones for IPv6 network backbone transition,' Burk said. 'If they are on schedule or not and if not, what are they doing to mitigate the problems.'


Burk added that agencies must show progress toward these milestones each quarter and OMB will assess their advancement throughout the year.

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