DOD provides IPv6 access to its research network

The Defense Department's High Performance Computing Modernization Program office has purchased three IPv6 access servers to provide IPv6 connections to its research network over plain old Internet links.

The Defense Research and Engineering Network is one of two DOD networks piloting the department's transition to the next generation of the Internet Protocol. The Migration Brokers from Hexago Inc. of Sainte-Foy, Quebec, will help DREN deploy IPv6 in a world where 90 percent of networks still are using IPv4.

The Internet Protocols are the set of rules underlying the Internet, defining how computers and other devices communicate with each other. Most hardware and software today uses IPv4. The Internet community developed Version 6 during the 1990s. It provides improved security, increased IP address space and greater authentication capabilities. DOD has announced it will move its IT infrastructure to Version 6 by fiscal 2008.

DREN is one of two pilot DOD networks that will pave the way for the transition, moving to IPv6 this year.

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

But because the two versions of IP are incompatible, remote users running advanced IPv6 applications need a way to connect with IPv6 networks if the infrastructure between them has not been upgraded.

Migration Broker is a network device that negotiates a secure IPv6 tunnel across the IPv4 Internet. It sits at the edge of the IPv6 network and also handles authentication and authorization, and accounts for usage.

The broker is essentially a software product, which Hexago packages as an appliance in a 1U rack-mounted box selling for $25,000 to $35,000 each, depending on the configuration. Each box can accommodate from 3,000 to 5,000 users, handling 1,250 active tunnels at a time.

The product has been available for about four years, said Hexago spokesman Duane Barry. Demand for it has increased in the past year.

'There are innovative groups and companies looking at how to deploy Version 6,' Barry said.

The Defense Department is a major driver among these groups, he said. Large carriers and service providers eager to offer advanced IPv6 applications to customers also are showing interest in the Migration Broker, although sales so far have been in relatively small quantities.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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