IPv6 roadmap tweaked to help agencies over finish line

The Federal CIO Council has updated its roadmap for government IPv6 adoption to help agencies meet the looming deadlines for deploying the next generation of Internet Protocols.

“The Internet is changing,” the document says. “To maintain connectivity with its constituents, the federal government must provide leadership on the process of evolving to IPv6.”

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The Office of Management and Budget has set deadlines at the end of fiscal years 2012 and 2014 for enabling the new protocols, and version 2 of the IPv6 roadmap was developed by the CIO Council and the American Council for Technology - Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC).

Originally published in 2009, the roadmap has been updated to include current goals and deadlines. It explains the rationale for enabling the new technology, and it describes end-states required for the 2012 and 2014 deadlines and the steps needed to achieve them.

“Agencies should initially focus on rolling out IPv6 operational capabilities that are overlaid on the existing IPv4 infrastructure and provide comparable features and functionality,” the roadmap says. “This is the most expedient approach and will be the easiest for agencies to adopt to create an operational IPv6 capability in order to successfully reach the 2012 milestone and 2014 milestone targets.”

But these steps alone will not allow agencies to take full advantage of new features and functionality in the protocols.

“Agencies also need to develop a deployment approach focused on leveraging the full capabilities and features of IPv6,” the roadmap advises. “This could require significant changes in the underlying physical infrastructure, as well as a potentially significant redesign of the enterprise network and of many of the policies and standard operating procedures. Agencies should incorporate IPv6 as part of their technology refresh and make it part of their longer term IT strategy.”

Version 6 of the Internet Protocols was developed in large part because IP addresses in the current IPv4 are running out. The last available IPv4 addresses were released to Regional Internet Registries for distribution last year. The Asia Pacific region exhausted its supply of IPv4 addresses in April 2011 and the European and North American regions' supplies are projected to follow shortly.

This means that new growth in the rapidly expanding Internet will be coming in the IPv6 address space. In order for online resources to be available to IPv6 users, organizations will have to enable the new protocols in their systems.

The OMB in 2005 required agencies to enable IPv6 on network backbones by June 2008. In September 2010 it set deadlines for transitioning enterprises to the new protocols. Agencies must:

  • Upgrade public and external facing servers and services (such as Web sites, e-mail, DNS servers and ISP services) to operationally use native IPv6 by the end of fiscal 2012.

  • Upgrade internal client applications that communicate with public Internet servers and supporting enterprise networks to operationally use native IPv6 by the end of fiscal 2014.

The exhaustion of IPv4 address space has made the transition to IPv6 a continuity of operations issue for agencies, but other benefits also are anticipated. “As federal agencies integrate IPv6 within their current operations, they also have the opportunity to employ the new technology to optimize and enhance their business functions,” the roadmap says.

In addition to expanding high-speed Internet access and spurring economic opportunity, benefits to agencies are expected to include streamlining online services to citizens, improving the quality and delivery of education and healthcare, and fostering environmental and energy monitoring and control.

Improved functionality in IPv6 includes:

  • Addressing and routing: IPv6’s larger address space enables global connectivity to more devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, in-vehicle computers, televisions, cameras, sensors and medical devices.
  • Security: When enabled and configured with the appropriate key infrastructure, IPsec will allow authentication, encryption and integrity protection at the network layer.
  • Address auto-configuration: Enables out-of-the-box plug-and-play network access for self-organizing networks.
  • Support for mobile devices: Mobile IPv6 allows devices to roam among different networks without losing their connectivity.
  • Peer-to-peer communication: True end-to-end connectivity will optimize media-streaming applications, allowing video feeds and other information to be easily distributed to millions of locations.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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