U.S. Seen at Risk on IPv6

IPv6 is gaining interest worldwide, but will the United States be left behind?

Apart from the U.S. Department of Defense and a coalition of universities, American enterprises have not jumped on IPv6. And now, as interest in the protocol grows worldwide, experts warn that the United States could be left behind.

Asian governments, particularly Chinas, have embraced IPv6, which promises to improve the Internets performance by increasing the number of addresses available, among other things. They are preparing to integrate the standard into consumer electronics on a massive scale, essentially connecting everyone everywhere, said Alex Lightman, chairman of the IPv6 Summit, which will be held this week in Arlington, Va.

If U.S. enterprises do not prepare for the migration, they could lose their edge in technology and face a trade imbalance, Lightman said.

"I think Americans are living in a fools paradise," Lightman said. "China has decided that its going to run itself like a massive electronics export company. What happens when there are 60 billion objects on the Internet? With IPv6, you can give every person, place, pet and thing its own IP address."

For those who see the Internet as the service delivery medium of the future, IPv6 will be vital. More addressing space is the benefit most often touted, but the standard is also viewed as a catalyst for new wireless and peer-to-peer applications. In addition, it is expected to improve packet processing and router processing times.

The lack of enthusiasm within U.S. enterprises results in part from IPv6 rules that were established early on to prohibit multiple connections to the Internet, said Jeff Doyle, professional services engineer and the IPv6 solutions manager at Juniper Networks Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif. At present, users cannot obtain service-provider-independent addresses. "Unfortunately, the kind of rules that have been put in place are very unattractive to enterprise users," Doyle said.

Several pending proposals could permit independent addresses, but a solution must be found soon, before users apply the multihoming practices adopted for IPv6, Doyle said.

The United States slower approach to IPv6 relative to Asias will not likely be an impediment in the long term, Doyle said.