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U.S. Enterpises: Don't be left behind on IPv6
[June 15, 2006]

U.S. Enterpises: Don't be left behind on IPv6

(InfoWorld Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Any enterprise that does business with Asia or the U.S. government should start using IPv6 (Internet Protocol, Version 6) as soon as possible, an advocate of the new version of IP told attendees on Wednesday at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in San Francisco.

China, Japan and South Korea all have mandated adoption of the next-generation protocol, so companies in other countries will be left behind if they don't start using it, said Alex Lightman, chairman and chief executive officer of Inc., an IPv6 training and consulting company in Santa Monica, California. In addition to the Asian mandates, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget last August required all government agencies to run IPv6 on their network backbones by June 2008. The U.S. Defense Department also has called for all military networks to migrate by 2008.

IPv6 has languished on the to-do lists of most U.S. IT executives even though it has more than 10 years of development behind it and is already deployed in some production networks. An international IPv6 testbed network called the 6bone was shut down last week, as planned, because the protocol is moving from the testing to the commercial deployment stage. It is possible for a company to support both IPv6 and the current protocol, called IPv4, at the same time.

The main benefit of the new protocol is an addressing system that far outstrips any forecast need for IP addresses assigned to people and devices. The fear of running out of addresses is one reason countries such as China have given for adopting the new system. But as the birthplace of the Internet, the U.S. has the lion's share of addresses under the current protocol and is in less danger of running out soon.

Adopting IPv6 will be critical for U.S. companies to do international business, acquire or merge with foreign companies and make products to sell in other countries, Lightman said. Soon there will even be Web sites that can't be reached without IPv6, he warned.

Burton Group analyst Jeffrey Young took the opposing side in the conference session, arguing there is no need for most U.S. businesses to start using IPv6 -- yet. Steps already taken to solve the address limitations of IPv4, such as CIDR (Classless Inter-Domain Routing) and NAT (Network Address Translation), have worked well, he said. CIDR is a more flexible addressing method for the Internet and NAT is a system that can translates a single Internet address into many local addresses.

"You prepare, but you don't waste your money right now," Young said. "It's gonna come; it's not this year, it's not next year." But Young does believe U.S. enterprises will need to deploy by about 2017.

Young also raised security concerns about IPv6, which is designed to set up an end-to-end link from one device to another across the Internet, without an intermediate mechanism such as NAT. NAT provides a crucial security tool to consumers who don't know how to use firewalls, he said.

Asked whether they planned to deploy IPv6 in a production network within two or three years, about one-quarter of attendees at the session raised their hands.

That timing may be just about right for The Boeing Co., according to Richard Paine, an advanced computing technologist at the aircraft giant. Boeing's high volume of business in Asian countries is likely to help drive it toward IPv6, Paine said. But a network architect for an international hotel chain, also attending the Burton conference, said her company doesn't see any need for it yet even though it has operations in China and other Asian countries. And Bernie Sydenham, national manager for strategic solutions at Australian carrier Telstra Corp. Ltd., said enterprises that want Telstra to build communications systems for them aren't asking for IPv6.

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