OMB: IPv6 by June 2008

The federal government will transition to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) by June 2008, said Karen Evans, Office of Management Budget administrator for e-government and information technology.

'Once the network backbones are ready, the applications and other elements will follow,' she said today while testifying before the House Government Reform Committee.

Worldwide, IPv6 is already replacing IPv4 as the Internet address protocol of choice. Under IPv4, networked devices are assigned a 32-bit address. That limits the number of addresses to 4.3 billion. Once an unthinkably large number, it's now not enough in a world where cell phones can connect to the Internet. Some organizations already resort to assigning a single address to an entire internal network and using a translator for individual devices.

IPv6, however operates on a 128-bit address standard, which provides 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses.

OMB will issue guidance shortly for the transition to IPv6, Evans said. Included in that memo will be a requirement that agencies familiarize themselves with some of the pitfalls associated with the new standard.

Earlier this year, the United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), part of the Homeland Security Department, issued a warning to agencies about the new protocol. Some firewalls and network intrusion detection systems do not monitor IPv6 traffic, possibly allowing hackers into agency systems. Further, because IPv6 compatible devices automatically assign their own IP addresses, there's a danger that devices are being configured without authorization.

Only the Defense Department has significantly readied itself for IPv6, a Government Accountability Office report finds. In contrast, of the other 23 major agencies that are covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, 21 lack transition plans, 19 have not inventories IPv6 software and equipment, and 22 agencies lack business cases and have not developed cost estimates, the report states.

The OMB memo will require agencies to assign a specific individual to coordinate transition planning. Agencies will have to develop and inventory of existing IPv6-ready devices and conduct a transition impact analysis.

The CIO Council will release more detailed guidance before the end of this calendar year, Evans added.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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