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Is the OMB IPv6 mandate faltering?

How many agencies are actually embracing IPv6? Fewer than you might think, at least if you believe a recent article from Network World.

We have mixed feelings about this story. One the one hand, we admire that the reporter connected the dots on how agencies are responding to the Office of Management and Budget's mandate to move to IPv6.

On the other hand, we were chafed by those parts that are either deliberately misleading, or, at the least, show some editorial confusion.

The article opens quite sensationally.

"U.S. federal agencies have six months to meet a deadline to support IPv6, an upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol known as IPv4. But most agencies are not grabbing hold of the new technology and running with it, industry observers say," writes Carolyn Duffy Marsan.

Of course, we all know that agencies only have to have their backbone networks enabled for IPv6 by the end of next June. They don't have to be running IPv6 across their networks, as implied by that opener (though oddly enough, this fact is actually stated quite clearly deeper in the article).

So, if the mandate states only that the backbone support should be in place, and if agencies are meeting this goal (a fact the article doesn't contest), where is the failing, exactly?

Also curious is how the article does not quote a single fed on the subject. Why not Peter Tseronis, co-chairman of the CIO Council's IPv6 Working Group? How about someone from OMB, who could have shed some light on the Administration's expectations on how agencies should move forward after the deadline has passed?

Rather, only telecom vendor executives are quoted. As a result, all the evidence for this slow adoption is secondhand and, natch, biased towards increasing IPv6-oriented purchases.

Worse, it does not take into account OMB's recently-launched Trusted Internet Connections mandate, which strongly encourages agencies consolidating their network access points to use those vendors on the Networx contract. Networx requires vendors to support end-to-end IPv6, possibly making the whole issue somewhat irrelevant.

Such shortcomings aside, the article has plenty of compelling material to raise the question of if agency IT leaders are truly thinking about IPv6, or if they are only
doing only the minimum to meet the requirements of OMB.

"To meet the OMB mandate, all they have to do is enable IPv6 on their backbone routers and then they get the check mark. And that's nothing," senior vice president and general manager of Qwest Government Services Diana Gowen told Network World.

Managers from AT&T, Global Crossing, NTT America, Qwest, and Verizon all indicate that they have few customers looking into IPv6 options beyond what is required by the OMB mandate. Verizon, for instance, has IPv6 support as part of its multi protocol labeled switching service, though few agencies utilize the capability.

So, is this article a harbinger of a wobbly mandate, or is it hype-mongering? Or are we just jealous that Network World reported it first? You be the judge.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:39 AM


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