Much work remains in IPv6 transition

As agencies approach the final stretch of their transition to IPv6 network backbones, much of the guidance they will be relying on remains to be finished.

The Office of Management and Budget in 2005 announced that civilian core networks of civilian agencies would have to be capable of handling IPv6 packets by June 2008. The Defense Department had announced the same requirement for its networks two years earlier. The new generation of Internet protocols promise improved functionality and security that could help government operate more efficiently.

But organizations that have assumed the burden of setting out the standards for IPv6 capability and defining the path to it still are working on the final documents, said senior OMB policy analyst Carol Bales. Speaking Wednesday at the Coalition IPv6 Summit in Reston, Va., Bales cited five transition guidance projects still under way:
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is expected to release in several weeks its final IPv6 profile, detailing the capabilities of equipment on network backbones needed to meet the 2008 deadline.
  • NIST is expected to publish guidance on best security practices for IPv6 in the next couple of months.
  • NIST will hold a public meeting to discuss the need for a IPv6-certified product list, which would give agencies a definitive word on whether products are compliant.
  • The Federal CIO Council's IPv6 Working Group is developing an implementation testing program for IPv6 equipment.
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulation Commission is in the process of finalizing requirements for the acquisition of IPv6 products.

Although agency backbones must be capable of transporting IPv6 traffic next year, there are no requirements for actually using that capability. How quickly IPv6 applications are implemented will depend on mission requirements, the business case for acquiring them and how quickly private-sector vendors make them available. So far, agencies' attention has been focused on the backbone requirement rather than applications.

'They are not likely to be running IPv6 applications come June 2008,' Bales said.

Some vendors at the conference said they already are getting pressure from agencies and that IPv6 compliance is becoming a requirement in requests for proposals. But they complained that there has been too little cooperation from government in defining just what is required to be 'IPv6 compliant.'

'We want to make sure we are doing this properly,' one vendor said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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