Defense chooses pilot networks for IPv6

The Defense Department will test the next generation of the Internet on two major networks over the next year.

The department will pilot the transition to IP Version 6 on the Defense Research and Engineering Network and the Defense Information Systems Network-Leading Edge Services. DOD officials chose the networks as IPv6 test beds because they have many users, are centrally managed and can be isolated from other DOD networks, Defense officials said.

'As is often the case, the DOD science and technology community is a key enabler of transformation, and this is yet another opportunity to advance a strategic technology that enables future warfighting capabilities,' Charles J. Holland, deputy undersecretary of Defense for science and technology, said in a statement.

DOD expects that it will take until 2008 for all its users to shift to IPv6, Defense CIO John Stenbit said. In June, Stenbit announced plans to switch to IPv6 as the department standard for integrating sensor, weapon and systems data on DOD's Global Information Grid.

Any military communications system bought or developed after Oct. 1 must comply with the new IP standard but be able to support IP Version 4, Version 6's predecessor, Stenbit said.

Network complications

Establishing a comprehensive security framework is more difficult in a networked environment than in a military one that communicates via telephones or broadcast systems, he said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will be the IPv6 manager for DOD, acquiring, allocating and controlling address space. IPv6 is intended to overcome the security and address limitations of IPv4.

Following the shift to IPv6 by the test bed networks, DOD will devise a plan for DOD-wide transition to the protocol. Additional users are not expected to shift to IPv6 before next fall. One possible early candidate is the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, Defense officials said.

NMCI is an enterprise network that will link voice, video and data communications at more than 300 Navy and Marine Corps installations.

Under a contract awarded in 2002, MCI Communications Corp. provides the infrastructure for DREN.

'The DOD IPv6 initiative and the DREN's lead role will blaze a trail for the U.S. military and for the civilian sector to follow,' said Vinton Cerf, honorary chairman of the North American IPv6 Forum and senior vice president for architecture and technology at MCI.


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