A key to IPv6 transition

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Federal agencies may ease their transition to IPv6 through IP address management (IPAM) tools.

The biggest challenge to IPv6 deployment is 'the intimidation factor, said Tim Rooney, product management director at BT Diamond IP, who spoke at the FOSE Conference and Exhibition in Washington today. 'The 128-bit IPv6 address is intimidating even to technical folks.'

Unlike IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses are long and the nomenclature too awkward for memorization. Even placing IPv6 addresses on a diagram is problematic. As agencies move towards IPv6, IPAM tools may move from the nice-to-have category to a vital piece of an agency's Operational Support System.

BT's IP Control product is being deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies to assist with IP address management. The FAA is looking to get 'a handle on its IPv4 space and use it as foundation for IPv6 deployment,' Rooney said.

Many agencies handle IPAM through homegrown databases or spreadsheets. These tools are often inaccurate, causing operational confusion and increasing the effort of network staff. Agencies that operate separate tools for Domain Name Service (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and IP address management can consolidate to a single tool that automates all three functions.

'You enter the data once,' Rooney said. 'You are not entering data into a spreadsheet, then going to a DCHP server, then to a DNS server. They are three somewhat independent technologies but they are interrelated.' A single cohesive tool can ensure data accuracy and minimize an agency's effort and risk.

The Office of Management Budget mandate that the federal government be IPv6-compliant by June is generating more interest in IPAM tools. 'We are seeing more interest over the last four years than prior to that,' Rooney said. ' It has driven feature enhancement in the product.'

Government agencies have concerns over the learning curve and operational complexities they will face when deploying IPv6.

'You are going to see more of a need (for IPAM) in the coexistence era' when IPv4 and IPv6 will run concurrently, Rooney said. IPAM tools can provide a 'cohesive view of the dual-stack network.'

'The system will aid in the learning curve and feed into the training process,' Rooney said. 'IPAM tools can reduce the propensity for errors that the newness and complexity of IPv6 may bring. The tools can further the plug-and-play idea of IPv6.'

About the Author

Dan Campbell is a freelance writer with Government Computer News and the president of Millennia Systems Inc.

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