Agencies slow in adopting IPv6, survey finds

An independent survey of federal agencies released today found that less than 4 percent have finished IPv6 implementation and less than 8 percent have completed their transition plans.

More than a third of the 200 defense and civilian agencies' decision-makers working with IPv6 surveyed said their IPv6 implementation will start by the end of fiscal 2007, according to the survey from Cisco Systems.

The Office of Management and Budget set June 2008 as the deadline for agencies to have IPv6 in place.

'Setting this firm date is necessary to maintain focus on this important issue,' Karen Evans said in testimony at a House Government Reform Committee hearing on June 29, 2005.

The paradigm shift to IPv6 has begun in the federal government, she also said. IPv6-capable software and hardware exist in agencies' networks. Most current computer operating systems support IPv6, and many installed routers and switches already have IPv6 build-in.

'In other words, the transition to IPv6 is already taking place,' Evans said.

But it has many challenges. Planning for system migration, security aspects of the transition, and as yet undefined privacy concerns of the technology stand as obstacles.

'You are going to encounter problems you're never going to imagine,' said Dave Nelson, former deputy chief information officer at NASA and currently a member of the Input Consulting Group.

One of the toughest challenges facing agencies is having no prior experience to guide them through the transition, he said. While agencies shift IPv6, they can keep IPv4 as a temporary back-up system if communications between systems fail.

On the survey, 45 percent of respondents said that a lack of time and experienced staff present a large challenge as they work on the shift.

Almost 65 percent of participants said that funding and budget was the top challenge facing them.

Among the reasons for agencies' slow adoption of IPv6, the survey found that it was considered an issue for the IT department, not as a driver of business benefits.

'The strong business case of early and rapid implementation has yet to be successfully made,' said Gerald Charles, executive advisor at Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group. 'The market focus needs to move from cost and technology issues to business benefits and applications.'

Business and IT viewpoints within agencies differed in the survey results. IT decision-makers cited privacy, security and network performance as top concerns. Business decision-makers focused most on continuity of operations, productivity and costumer satisfaction.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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