Poorly attended IPv6 conference belies urgency of Internet address depletion

The other week the Department of Veterans Affairs sponsored the 2010 InterAgency IPv6 Information Exchange. As a pioneer in IPv6, the most fundamental protocol of the Internet, ESnet was invited to present on how it uses and implements IPv6. Over 120 agencies were invited to attend but only a handful showed, almost all from various parts of the Department of Defense, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This lacklustre attendance is curious, given that IPv6 is critical to everyone. It is slated to replace IPv4, the current protocol, lock, stock, and barrel. The question is when. What we do know is that address space for existing IP will be exhausted next year. According to Geoff Huston, Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures, we are literally running out of IPv4 Internet addresses.

Supply of IPv4 Internet Addresses Drying Up, http://www.potaroo.com

The commercial world was in denial of the need for IPv6 until a year ago. Now they are scrambling. But how is the government doing? The level of interest seems to vary by agency.

At this particular conference, presentations ranged from technical discussion of IPv6 implementation from governmental representatives, commercial IPv6 networking providers, and companies selling IPv6 management tools. The VA is implementing IPV6 to facilitate communications between nurses and patients. While ESnet has been using IPv6 for years to link DOE scientists together, some of the other applied uses of this technology, such as improving medical care, are exciting.

It was very encouraging to see the progress the Department of Defense in transitioning to IPv6 while maintaining strict controls for security and reliability. It appears that the DOD is on target for completion of the transition by 2013.

The other area of discussion was in the area of procurement requirements and the approval of new requirements for more complete IPv6 capabilities in new gear.

On the whole, the agencies present seem to be moving on a well organized plan to get to IPv6. The low response from agencies does leave one hoping it was a result of their confidence in their ability to transition in a timely manner that led to so many not participating.

–Kevin Oberman