The U.S. government operates one of the largest technology infrastructures
on Earth, and it’s all supposed to be IPv6-ready.
At least, that was the plan.
A three-year-old mandate for IPv6 usage, put into place by the White House’s
Office of Management and Budget (OMB), went into effect June 30. That order
required all government agencies to have the ability to transmit IPv6
(define), the next generation of the Internet Protocol at the heart of
But passing of the deadline doesn’t mean that U.S. government agencies have
actually begun using IPv6 for transit. In fact, even with experts predicting
that the current IPv4 Internet addressing scheme will be exhausted by
2010, the vast majority of all traffic in the country remains IPv4.
“Now that the mandate has passed, it hasn’t resulted in a significant
increase in IPv6 traffic, and not many agencies are running dual IPv4/IPv6
stacks,” Diana Gowen, senior vice president and general manager of Qwest
Government Services, told InternetNews.com.
OMB spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The OMB mandate requires government agencies to be able to demonstrate
compatibility with IPv6 — specifically, that they can both send and receive
IPv6 traffic. The rule doesn’t require government agencies to actually run
IPv6 for Internet transport on a daily basis.
The mandate was first announced in 2005, giving agencies nearly three years
to get ready. And while government network contractors agree that much still
remains to be done, meeting the mandate should not have been too difficult, observers said.
For instance, Christopher Davis, IPv6 product manager at NTT America, said
his company recommends dual IPv4/IPv6 stacks as a simple way to meet the OMB
“Routers and operating systems have all been capable of running dual-stack
for quite some time, so it’s less of a nightmare than people might think,”
Davis told InternetNews.com. “If you’re going to renumber your entire
network with IPv6, that’s a different undertaking, but you don’t have to do
that to meet the mandate.”
Vendors also have made tools and services available to help network
administrators assess their needs.
“Qwest offers federal customers an independent certification tool that scans
devices and pings them to check for IPv6 compatibility,” Gowen said.
Despite such capabilities and tools, getting from the current low level of
IPv6 readiness to actually having the government running IPv6 for transit is
still some time away, observers said.
The chief selling point for IPv6 has long been the fact that IPv4 address
space is almost used up. Nevertheless, the issue alone hasn’t been enough of a driver according to Dave Siegel, Global Crossing’s vice president of IP and data services product management.
He said that’s because both government and U.S. businesses have been able to manage quite well with their current allocations, thanks to the use
of Network Address Translation (NAT) (define).