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7/14/2005
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Next-Gen Internet Protocol Fizzles

Though IPv6 greatly expands the pool of available Internet addresses and U.S. government agencies are adopting it, most enterprises don't see much value in the upgrade and are in no hurry to deploy it.

Federal agencies and Congress are pushing for it. The major economic forces in Asia and the Pacific Rim are mandating it. And in the last month or so, the IT industry has seen more stumping for IPv6 adoption than we saw in the previous decade of the protocol's existence. But will all this hoopla speed the near-term implementation of IPv6 in the United States? Probably not.

In recent years, China, India, Japan and South Korea all have advanced plans for making IPv6 their national standard, and they've set aside substantial budgets to do it. The attitude isn't surprising--these countries are most in need of the additional addresses IPv6 provides. With the money and the incentive behind them, these Asian nations are likely to deploy the next-generation IP before most organizations in the United States do.

But Congress, the media and some industry leaders don't like the idea of America losing the IPv6 race. They say we're falling behind technologically. As a result, there's a new mandate for all government agencies to deploy IPv6 by June 2008. There's always the possibility of legislation, tax credits or budget changes designed to accelerate IPv6 adoption nationwide.

Federal agencies have had trouble meeting such aggressive IT mandates in the past, and IPv6 will likely be no exception. So far, the Department of Defense is the only agency that has begun to implement the next-generation IP standards, and it will have difficulty converting all its networks in less than three years. Most other agencies haven't started making plans or estimating costs.

Private enterprises are moving at an even slower rate, and with good reason. For one thing, IPv6 offers very little new functionality for U.S. organizations, which have extended their address space through NAT (Network Address Translation). No major U.S. service provider offers IPv6, because there's so little demand. The benefits of U.S. IPv6 will remain limited for the next few years, and it's hard to fault any enterprise for not switching anytime soon. Most have plenty of addresses reserved.

With all the noise surrounding IPv6, should you be considering the technology? If your business involves regular interaction with Asian organizations, you might want to get up to speed, but there's no urgency. The impact of IPv6 will take time to be felt in Asia, and it will be even longer before that impact reaches the United States. Currently only a handful of U.S. technologists need to worry about IPv6--those that work in the federal government, carriers, researchers and networking vendors. If you're not in one of those categories, the IPv6 bug won't reach you for years to come.


Must Reads:

Hearings Spotlight Asia's Push to Adopt IPv6

DoD Targets IPv6 as Catalyst for Net-Centric Warfare

U.S. Government Accountability Office report

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