Feds Seek Feedback on IPv6 Deployment

The U.S. government seeks public input on the pros and cons of IPv6.

While the United States errs on the side of prudence, a new report shows that Asian organizations are moving faster toward the forthcoming IPv6 standard.

According to the IPv6 Forum, which evaluates companies for IPv6-compatible products and released its latest findings Jan. 15, Asia has the largest number of companies producing IPv6-compatible products, including NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Fujitsu Ltd. The governments of China, Japan and South Korea have taken more steps than the United States to foster the transition to the new protocol, raising concern that the United States could fall behind.

But before taking steps to foster the next-generation IP beyond military use, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration want to hear from the public.

One reason for the perceived delay: It is not a given, from the Bush administrations perspective, that IPv6 will offer significant benefits beyond expanded address space. Noting that todays networks can incorporate many features associated with IPv6, NIST and NTIA are looking for feedback on how easy it would be to implement IPv6-related features over IPv4 networks and how such deployments would affect performance.

IPv6s benefits will accrue not so much from new features and functions as from the ability to operate more smoothly and inexpensively, said David Kessens, who works for Nokia Networks Inc., in Mountain View, Calif. Remote sensors, for example, will be able to communicate directly without the aid of intermediary servers, Kessens said.

Nokia Oyi is one of just two European companies to develop IPv6-compatible products so far. Network security being a key concern of the U.S. government, NIST and NTIA want to know whether IPv6 would improve the traceability of malicious Internet users by making it harder to conceal their identities through anonymous servers and relays.

Likewise, because the IP Security specification is a standard feature of IPv6, would IpSec be easier to use and therefore more widely implemented? To date, there is no consensus on these questions.

"If everybody uses the security features of IPv6, its definitely an advantage," said Ed Giorgio, principal with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., in Lithicun, Md. "But just because the protocols are defined and the capabilities exist in many devices, that doesnt mean theyre going to be used."

Some IPv6 advocates suggest that increased address space will end the need for Network Address Translation devices, which in turn could enhance the development of peer-to-peer applications.