Agencies find there's no single path to IPv6

FAA to run protocol on test network; Education analyzing costs through business cases

IV6P: A method to the madness

How to prepare:

  • Form an executive steering committee at the highest levels of your agency. Use concrete examples, such as how it would affect emergency responsiveness, to inform executives why this is important.

  • Identify rules and responsibilities for everyone involved.

  • Prepare an IPv6 business case to analyze costs and specifics of how it meets agency mission goals.

  • Complete an application inventory and progress report. Answer employees' questions about terminology and techniques. Have employees understand why they are responding to this need.

  • Work with a computer security officer to get important information about the backbone.

How not to prepare:
  • Don't try to manage the transition in isolation. Ask for meetings with your department's top execs so they know what is going on and how your group
    is handling it.

  • Don't procrastinate on June deliverables.

  • Don't assume this is just a tech refresh. Significant training and network engineering will be required to mitigate the risks involved in modifying the network backbone.

Source: Peter Tseronis, Education Department

'In 2007, we will need cash. We have to build a business case and develop a strategy to say why we need that cash.'

'Peter Tseronis, Education Department

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to set up three test beds to see how well data packets travel through its administrative network using IP Version 6.

The Education Department, meanwhile, is linking its move to IPv6 to more than 200 IT business cases and using them to explain the impact of the new technology on each investment.

These are two approaches agencies are taking to figure out the best ways to meet the June 2008 deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget to move their network backbones to IPv6.

On Feb. 28 most agencies handed over to OMB transition plans and progress reports. And by June 30, they must complete an inventory of IP-aware applications and peripherals on the network backbone, plus an IPv6 transition impact analysis.

The program leaders at FAA and Education are, like their counterparts at other agencies, trying to determine how best to meet those near-term deadlines, as well as the 2008 deadline, which they say feels like it's approaching quickly.

Risk reduction

FAA is looking at the IPv6 transition from a technical perspective. Mark Powell, the agency's chief technical officer, said that by the end of the summer, his office would set up routers to connect labs in three cities'Atlantic City, N.J., Oklahoma City and Washington'over an IPv6 network.

'This is a risk reduction activity,' Powell said at a recent forum on IPv6 transition sponsored by the CIO Council's Best Practices Committee, the Industry Advisory Council and American Council for Technology. 'We want to look at the size of the routing tables, the latency, what happens when you send IPv6 packets and what happens when you transition to IPv6 from IPv4.'

He added that FAA officials don't want to do anything until they fully understand the impact of IPv6 on their WANs and LANs, which are among the first parts of the network scheduled to be transitioned to the new protocol.

FAA plans on moving the WAN to IPv6 by 2007 and its data center by 2008, Powell said.

'We are trying to put IPv6 in the agency's strategic objectives,' he said. 'We also are leveraging other agencies' work, especially the Defense Department's. About 80 percent of it is right; we just need to tweak it a little.'

For Education, the planning for IPv6 started almost immediately after OMB handed down the mandate. The department set up an executive steering committee to oversee the process and formed a three-person transition team, led by Peter Tseronis, Education's director of network services.

Analyzing the cost

The transition team uses a collaboration tool to communicate its plans, and meets weekly with working groups as well as with the CIO and the department's assistant secretary.

'We also worked with Education's corporate security officers,' Tseronis said. 'We wanted someone from each group in the office to get educated and run with this.'
The basic idea to get some momentum for this project, he said, was to describe IPv6's value to the agency.

'We are building a business case now for how we are going to transition to IPv6 because it will cost us more than $7 million over the next two years,' Tseronis said. 'We have to look at the risks and costs, which are the same things we look at for all investments when we do business cases.'

Last year, Education asked for $8 million for IPv6 transition in its budget request, but received no funding. The department did save $3 million from work on other projects, but still needs more money.

'In 2007, we will need cash,' Tseronis said. 'We have to build a business case and develop a strategy to say why we need that cash.'

He said Education is analyzing what it will cost to comply with OMB's requirements; to support IPv6 and IPv4 traffic on the network; to deliver training for managers and network administrators; and for hardware and software.

He added Education hasn't yet started putting together an inventory of software applications. Additionally, he said many vendors say they will not have software ready for four to six years.

'We formed a focus group that maintains the asset management system and we are talking to the program managers,' he said. 'We have 23 agencies and we are asking them for this information.'

All of this information will be captured in the agency's enterprise architecture repository.

'As much as this is a bit daunting, come June we will have a nice solid picture of our non-backbone inventory,' he said.

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