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IPv6 for Gov - GovITwiki

IPv6 for Gov

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IPV6: An Introduction

Much of today's Internet operates using Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). But as the Net keeps growing, it requires greater address space, security and new functions that cannot be supported by IPv4.

IPv6 has evolved as the new standard protocol for the Internet. (IPv5 never took off as a popular solution.) Like other industries, the U.S. Federal Government needs to plan for a steady, multi-year transition to IPv6. The government is being pro-active in its approach, setting June 2008 as a target for migrating its agency backbone networks to IPv6. By now, agencies are supposed to have completed their network assessments and established a transition plan to meet this deadline.

History of the Internet Protocol in Government

In 1973, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) develop the initial network (ARPANet) which eventually became the Internet. Prior to that, DARPA conducted networking tests and efforts dating back to 1969, via a contract with Bolt, Beranek and Newman. This is sometimes mentioned as an unofficial start date for the ARPANet. The launch of ARPANET as a network happened in 1971. [1]

By 1973, the first versions of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) were in place. Known as the TCP/IP Protocol Suite this protocol is still in place today on the Internet, though there have been changes and updates along the way. [2]

Version numbers 0 through 3 of the Internet Protocol were development versions used as the initial ARPAnet, and associated academic networks, expanded though the 1970s. These were developed through cooperative efforts of the U.S. government and commercial vendors. IPv4 proved very succesful during its initial development between 1977 and 1979. It became the default standard for much of the Internet as it continued to evolve.

The U.S. government is not the key leader of Internet protocol development. The engineering efforts are coordinated by the international Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). But the U.S. government remains a key player in the development of Internet protocols by providing engineering consultants, test sites and limited funding.

Other versions

Version number 5 was used by the Internet Stream Protocol (IST), an experimental stream protocol. Ultimately IPv5 was bypassed, which is why most networks will need to make a leap from IPv4 to IPv6. Version numbers 6 through 9 were assigned to experimental protocols designed to replace IPv4: SIPP (known nowadays as IPv6), TP/IX, PIP, and TUBA. Of these, only IPv6 is still in use.

Current Situation

Challenge 1: There is no special federal funding available for IPv6 transitions. Agencies are expected to make the migration via their ongoing equipment purchases and network updates. Most agencies now have their transition plan in place, but industry news articles have noted that many are lagging when it comes to making that transition a reality. [3] [4]

Challenge 2: Agency IT budgets are tight at the moment, especially since the current 2007 IT Budget has been stalled, thanks to the Continuing Resolution. (See the 2007 budget page for details.) Since there is no pressing need for a quick transition to IPv6, transition plans are not receiving top priority from some IT manager.

  • The Federal CIO Council’s Architecture and Infrastructure Committee has established an IPv6 Transition Guide to help highlight best practices, roles and responsibilities.

IPv6 Testing Facilities

Most IPv6 compatible equipment and software must be tested to assure there actually is compatibility with other IPv6 solutions.

  • University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL). Serves as a neutral third-party test site. Measures interoperability and reports on its findings. Both vendors and government agencies have contracted with the UNH-IOL for testing and certification. List can be fond on the Interoperability Lab's Web site.
  • Worldwide Consortium for the Grid (W2COG). This is a partnership of government and private sector groups. It's goal is to help the Defense Department develop products to support network-centric operations. This includes IPv6 compatibility, and coordination with universities and commercial development and testing facilities. More details are on the W3COG Web site.

Most Common Procurement Methods

  • Most agencies should follow their regular procurement methods when they need to obtain IPv6 capable equipment.
  • GSA is amending the Federal Acqusitions to specify "In acquiring information technology solutions, agencies must include the appropriate Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) capability requirements as outlined in the OMB Memorandum M-05-22, Transition Planning for Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) (ref: FAR Case 2005-41)
  • The Department of Defense requires procurement officers procuring any network-capable IT equipment to check with the Joint Interoperability Test Center IPv6 Approved Product List (APL) and buy products listed there first.
  • NIST is developing additional acquisition guidance and a testing program common to all US civilian government agencies. (ref: NIST IPv6 Program)
  • The Federal CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee (AIC) should include a discussion of acquisition and procurement of IPv6-capable/ready assets.


In the near future, Voice Over IP (VoIP) systems could boost IPv6 interest. In the longer term, the growth of mobile devices (in many cases multiple devices for many government employees, in their computers, cell phones, vehicles, and more) will make IPv6 migration an absolute requirement, since more address space will be needed.


Government is actually a leader for IPv6 transitions. And government, especially the Defense Department, has a strong need for ipv6 and multiple networked devices. But agencies need more funding for the transition, and with that funding, they need to take the mandate more seriously.

Spring of 2008 will be a major transition time for the protocol, and it's likely to bring new (and possibly urgent) opportunities for both vendors and government employees.


IPv6 News Links


[1]From IPv4 (IP) - A Brief History, at the Networks and Telecommunications Research Group, Trinity College, Doublin, Ireland.
[2] From a A Brief History of the Internet and Related Networks at the Internet Society
GSA seeks a catalyst role in its plans for an IPv6 program office; from Federal Computer Week.
[4] Security, budgets top agency IT concerns; from Washington Technology.

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