IPv6 Still Gets No Respect in the United States

Support for the next-gen Internet protocol is still on the back burner, according to a poll of IT directors at the Burton Group's Catalyst confab. But with IPv6 coming in Vista and required by federal contracts, the clock is ticking.

SAN FRANCISCO—Although the foundation of the next-generation Internet, IPv6, is gaining momentum in South Asia and receiving solid support in Windows Vista, enterprise IT managers based in the United States appear to be in little hurry to adopt the standard.

Such was the conclusion of a debate held here on June 14 at the Burton Groups annual Catalyst conference.

In the IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) camp were Alex Lightman, CEO of IP telephony vendor Innofone.com, and Lawrence Hughes, chief technology officer of InfoWeapon, which offers an IPv6 network security appliance.

Holding up the IPv4 flag, or championing an all-things-in-their-season approach, was Senior Analyst Jeff Young of Burton Group, in Midvale, Utah.

Lightman ran through the usual technical arguments for IPv6 adoption, including its greater supply of Internet addresses, improved configuration capabilities, mandatory support for IP Security and QOS (quality of service), and simpler merging of networks.

He also discussed the expanded IPv6 support in Windows Vista, the possibility of new Internet applications using the extensible headers available in IPv6, and increased support for mobile applications.

As a sign of the protocols nascent arrival, Lightman pointed to the closure on June 6 of the 6Bone Project, an experimental IPv6 site started in 1996. He said the project was no longer necessary due to the increasing adoption of the standard in the Asian markets and the IPv6-native sites now cropping up on the Internet.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to see the IPv6 Working Groups list of IPv6 products.

"[The United States] cant afford to become a backwater. We cant ignore the rest of the world," Lightman warned. He said lack of expertise and deployment of IPv6 could hurt U.S. technical leadership when it comes to the Internet.

In addition, he observed that if international Web sites cant be reached with IPv4 products, that could become problem for U.S. businesses.

However, Burton Groups Young said there was no business case yet for the new technology. "Its not quite prime time," he said.

"The biggest obstacle the IPv6 community has right now for [wider] deployment is getting the [U.S.-based] operators to deploy. Operators in Asia have been mandated—countrywide in some cases—to deploy IPv6. ... But theres no business case for [U.S.-based operators] right now," Young said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifIs the United States out of the running to lead the next Net generation? Click here to read more.

NAT (Network Address Translation) addressing was an IPv4 feature that many in the audience were reticent to give up. When asked if IPv6 were broadly available from service providers, how many would give up NAT routers, only 20 percent said they would comply.

Young suggested that it is time for companies to start the process of investigating IPv6, but not for deployment, and he said there are sufficient addresses for many years to come.

"In the Far East and in Europe, IPv6 will get deployed right along with IPv4. ... By 2017 and past, certainly, IPv6 is going be the protocol were going to run. I just dont believe we need to spend money on it today," Young said.

However, he also expressed worry about the possibility that IPv6 could "Balkanize the Internet."

Although the audience, made up of IT network professionals, appeared to side with Young, some may deploy earlier than later. In a straw poll, the crowd was asked how many sites expected to deploy IPv6 in a production environment in the next two to three years, and the answer was about 25 percent.

The future IPv6 requirements from the Department of Defense and other government agencies were acknowledged by the attendees. The deadline for IPv6 support is in the first quarter of 2008.

"Most of us are doing business with the United States and most of the government is now writing new contracts requiring IPv6. We dont have a choice, weve got to have it," said one IT manager in the audience.

"[Support for IPv6] isnt a question of if, but when," said one IT director for a large financial house, who declined to be identified. "Its a coming problem to solve," he said to eWEEK, with an emphasis on the "coming."

Lightman told the crowd that IPv6 expertise could be a good career move.

"If you think about your career—your company gets acquired, you get laid off and youre looking for a job as an architect. If you dont have a successfully deployed IPv6 [installation] on your resume, who will hire you in a group of 50 other people looking for that job? IPv6 expertise, right now, is one of the most important things you can do for job security," he said.

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