The US Government Re-Engages with IPv6
June 1, 2009
On May 20th the Office of the US President released a new planning guide for US Government agency adoption of the Internet Protocol, version 6 (IPv6). As the world’s largest IT user, once the US Government finally starts moving ahead on a project, the rest of the world will finally need to take some serious notice.
IPv4 addresses are the machine language which tells Internet-connected applications how to find each other throughout the global network of networks. Humans are familiar with names such as http://www.yahoo.com, however Internet applications and routing devices would see the same thing as 188.8.131.52.
The problem is that Internet Protocol, version 4 (IPv4) address space is nearly exhausted, with less than 15% of available address space remaining (of 4,294,967,296 total available IPv4 addresses). Some experts, such as Paul Wilson (Dir Asia-Pacific Network Information Center) believe IPv4 addresses will start to dry up as soon as soon as June 2011.
The need to adopt IPv6 is becoming acute. In North America Internet address space is managed by the American Registry for Internet Numbering (ARIN). In May 2007 ARIN published a resolution which included the dire warning:
“WHEREAS, ongoing community access to Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) numbering resources cannot be assured indefinitely; and,
BE IT RESOLVED, that this Board of Trustees hereby advises the Internet community that migration to IPv6 numbering resources is necessary for any applications which require ongoing availability from ARIN of contiguous IP numbering resources; and,
BE IT ORDERED, that this Board of Trustees hereby directs ARIN staff to take any and all measures necessary to assure veracity of applications to ARIN for IPv4 numbering resources (American Registry for Internet Numbering)”
Until now the US Government, although they have touted the need to adopt IPv6, has lagged the commercial community in actual deployment of IPv6 within government networks and applications. This follows the Office of Management and Budget’s directive (M-05-22) to all government agencies to “prove IPv6 capability through core network infrastructure testing by June 30, 2008.”
The US Government also recognizes lagging IPv6 deployment puts us behind other government initiatives in China (China Next Generation Internet/CNGI) and the European Commission’s i2010 project, which is driving all European countries to implement IPv6 into networks and applications by the end of 2010.
The benefits of IPv6 are fairly well known and documented, including features such as:
- Greatly increased address space (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 total IPv6 addresses available, or 2128)
- Better security
- And lots of other great features including interoperability and integration into nearly any device that can be connected to a network
If the US Government is serious about pushing through their IPv6 initiative, many people will benefit, including consultants, equipment vendors, and software engineers, as most of the government IT architecture will need to be rebuilt. This is a good thing, as the rebuild will no doubt drive further innovation within the American IT community, and this will find its way into both the academic and commercial world, as the world’s largest IT user forces the community to re-engineer.
John Savageau, Long Beach