THOSE WHO THOUGHT governments employ only technology illiterates might be in for a shock to learn about a White House memo that outlined the reasons for IPv6 deployment throughout US federal government departments and agencies.
The shocking turn of events came as Vivek Kundra, US federal CIO set out the reasons why various departments and agencies should upgrade public facing servers and services including web, email and DNS systems to natively use IPv6 by the end of 2012. Such memos demanding action are not particularly unusual, but it seems that Kundra actually knows what he's talking about, and that is a bit of a shock for a high ranking civil servant.
While many believe the only reason why IPv6 should be deployed is to ensure that devices have IP addresses, Kundra illustrates the need in a far more technology-savvy manner. Though he does start off with talking about "scalable Internet networks", Kundra's argument that IPv6 will negate the need for organisations to use network address translation (NAT) is right on the money.
NAT was borne out of the need to conserve IP address ranges and breaks a number of fundamental Internet principles including end-to-end visibility. Kundra even mentions end-to-end services as a justification for deploying IPv6.
Some of the the biggest advantages of IPv6 come in the form of multicast support, mandatory support of Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) at domain name system (DNS) servers and larger frame sizes. However since most users might find it hard to visualise these benefits, most of those who argue for IPv6 implementation harp on the increase in the number of available IP addresses that IPv6 will provide.
With US government agencies moving from IPv4 to IPv6, it is likely that other governments will start to do the same. The official IPv6 standard is over 12 years old and, while it has been implemented in just about all major operating systems and network equipment, it hasn't been adopted yet by the majority of Internet users. Although migration to IPv6 is likely to induce some growing pains, it will be far worse if the infrastructure remains on IPv4.
The aggressive timetable for the change to IPv6 put forward by Kundra is likely to jolt a few network administrators into action. Whether two years is enough time to implement the change is another question, but it's clear that the person calling the shots sees IPv6 as much more than just more IP addresses.
Who would have thought that someone in a position of authority actually understands technology beyond the usual alphabet soup of acronyms? Perhaps there's hope for the US government after all. µ
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