IPv6 Shooting For The Moon

IPv6 , the next generation Internet protocol, has
successfully undergone the third phase of a test regimen
across a test network known as Moonv6.

Phase 3 of Moonv6 testing began on October 30th at University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory (NH-IOL) and was concluded on Nov 12th by the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, according to researchers involved with the test.

The tests ran included functionality and deployment scenarios including wired and unwired LANs , DNS , DHCP , VoIP , firewalls and a range of other network infrastructure applications.

Moonv6 is the largest permanently deployed multi-vendor IPv6 network and stretches from New Hampshire to California. The latest round of testing involved a who’s who of industry leaders including companies like AT&T , Cisco , HP , Juniper , Nortel , Microsoft and Sun .

“From everything we’ve seen, the underlying infrastructure of the
technology is fully baked,” Erica Williamsen, IPv6 Technical Manager at UNH-IOL, told internetnews.com. “The real work needed now is for vendors to fine tune their implementations and interoperability, and for service providers to adopt and deploy it.”

According to Williamsen, the Moonv6 tests are also something of a call to action. As more vendors become involved, the smoother and faster the IPv6 adoption curve will be. She noted that Moonv6 is helping service providers to overcome potential hurdles by providing participants with experience building IPv6 network architectures and configuring IPv6 systems.

The existing IPv4 protocol is almost 20 years old at this point and is in need of an overhaul, officials said, which IPv6 is set to provide on a number of levels. Among them is a need to address a shortage of IPv4 addresses wrought by the growth and use of the Internet, a problem that IPv6 was intended to help alleviate.

According to a leading authority on DNS and founder of the ISC (the group that produces BIND, the dominant DNS tool of the Internet) Paul Vixie, the biggest hurdle that enterprises and end users have in adopting IPv6 today is a lack of motivation.

“Most enterprises/end users have successfully worked around the shortage of IPv4 address space by deploying NAT and using private (RFC1918) addresses internally,” Vixie told internetnews.com. “This was
painful, and it was wrong, but it’s now common practice, and it’s “good
enough” that paying more money for upgrades and training to get IPv6 has
no business case in 2004.”

NAT stands for Network Address Translation and is the
default mechanism for many enterprises for assigning IP addresses to their
end users behind a firewall. Normally a DHCP server will
assign those NAT address as opposed to having a real ISP assigned IP
address. A NAT address is not a real IP address in the sense that it is
only internal and allows a myriad of users to effectively share one main
external IP address.

Vixie explained that enterprises are now used to their ISP independent
NAT addresses.

“While IPv6 tries very hard to avoid the need for NAT, and makes address
space plentiful enough that every device could have a real address, not a
private (RFC1918) address, this would present the enterprise/enduser
segment with a “lock-in” and I don’t expect this model to gain much
traction,” Vixie said.

Vixie’s ISC runs the f-root DNS servers on both IPv4 and IPv6. So far
though the traffic on IPv6 is only from a small community of leading-edge
experimenters and hobbyists.

That said, infrastructure and communications companies have plenty of
motivation to deploy the new technology according to Vixie.
“The real drivers for IP v6 deployment are in the infrastructure and
communications communities, and the enterprise/enduser communities will
ultimately “come along for the ride”, Vixie said.

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