Not much traffic for IPv6 networks

Carriers are IPv6-ready, but agencies and other large organizations are not

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Telecommunication service providers have their networks ready for IPv6 traffic, yet they are seeing little customer demand from agencies or other large organizations.

"There isn't a lot of demand for IPv6," said Daniel Awduche, a Verizon business fellow, speaking as part of an IPv6 panel at the MPLS 2008 Conference being held this week in Washington.

The message from the panel was clear: If government agencies haven't started using IPv6, it isn't because carriers don't offer the option.

Verizon offers customers a dual stack of IPv4 and IPv6 protocols for Internet access and virtual private network services, Awduche said. Global Crossing has the same set of services, said Dave Siegel, a vice president at the company. Likewise, Paul Girardi, director of engineering at AT&T Government Solutions, and Tomohiro Otani, senior manager at KDDI R&D Laboratories, said their companies offer IPv6 services.

And yet the panelists agreed that they see only minimal interest from customers.

In 2005, the Office of Management and Budget mandated that all federal agencies enable their networks to carry IPv6 traffic by June 30, 2008. Girardi said the IPv6 mandate was a good first step, but the panelists said agencies have not done much to use the technology.

The stagnation also seems to be the case elsewhere in the world.

Users' attitudes can typically be expressed as, "Why move if there is no need to do so?" said Jerry Sobieski, director of international research initiatives at Denmark-based Nordunet. "We haven't seen a lot of utilization. No one realizes there is this broad community with IPv6 available."

One of the biggest holdups is the lack of software applications that use IPv6, Sobieski added.

In Nordunet's case, the problem stems from the fact that many software libraries, which researchers use to build customized applications, do not support IPv6, he said.

Other panelists said the lack of network security software, such as firewalls, acts as a roadblock to IPv6 deployments.

The lack of applications is a chicken-and-egg problem because application providers don't want to start to creating IPv6 versions of their products until IPv6 networks start becoming widely deployed.

"I had my people talk to [some] app developers, and they said they would deal with it when there was demand," Siegel said.

The panelists also discussed what developments might finally prompt organizations to move to IPv6. Most agreed that the shortage of IPv4 address space could be the driving factor, though that shortage might not be felt for several years depending on what alternative approaches agencies use to reallocate address space. The proliferation of mobile and sensor-based networks might also be a factor.

On the government side, another OMB mandate might be helpful. Siegel suggested one with a deadline for when agencies must stop using IPv4.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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