Cisco Says IPv6 Could Thrive in Smart Grid

Upgrading US electrical networks could provide the impetus for greater IPv6 adoption.

 By Sean Michael Kerner
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Few doubt that the smart grid -- the plan to upgrade the nation's electrical networks, backed by supporters including politicians, environmental groups and tech industry leaders -- is anything less than an ambitious undertaking.

But it's also an opportunity to improve the nation's IPv6 adoption, according to Cisco. That's because the networking giant sees a successful smart grid requiring end-to-end security and Internet Protocol as its common transport.

Cisco today unveiled plans to expand its own smart grid push, with new efforts to help standardize technologies and build a vendor ecosystem for solution delivery. In combination with the enablement technologies, Cisco is now also gearing up smart grid security services and solutions in an effort to help secure the electrical system.

There's a lot at stake in the market for smart grid solutions. Cisco has estimated the market to be worth as much as $20 billion a year. Security is also now top of mind as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now investigating a report into potential threats to the West Coast power grid.

"As utilities are looking to build out smart grid, it's more effective to agree on a common protocol across the board as opposed to trying intermix different ones," Marie Hattar, Cisco's vice president of network systems and security solutions marketing, told InternetNews.com. "In many ways, this is like the early days of the Internet where we ultimately settled on IP. We see IP as the scalable protocol for smart grid and we're working with a variety of vendors to advocate this and make this the key protocol of choice."

And there's likely to be subsidiary benefits to the smart grid, like furthering the cause of IPv6 -- since since tens of millions of users and new devices around the world will require connectivity.

Today, most Internet users have an IPv4 address through which they are connected to the Internet. IPv4 has a 32-bit address size, allowing for only 4.3 billion addresses and is currently nearing address space exhaustion. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the organization that assigns IP address space in North and South America, has publicly stated that it expects to run out of IPv4 addresses inside of the next two years.

IPv6, the successor technology to IPv4, has a 128-bit address space, enabling it to handle far more addresses -- though, to date, adoption has been slow.

As Cisco sees it, the smart grid could well prove to be a solid use case and a driver for IPv6 adoption. Read the rest at InternetNews.com.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2009
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