Industry Outlook is a regular Data Center Journal Q&A series that presents expert views on market trends, technologies and other issues relevant to data centers and IT.
This week, Industry Outlook talks with Timothy Winters about federal agencies and IPv6 adoption through the USGv6 program. Timothy is a senior executive of software and IP networking at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). He works with companies from all over the world to develop flexible broad-based testing strategies to cost effectively meet network interoperability requirements for IPv6, software-defined networking (SDN), Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), routing and home networking. Timothy is the United States Government IPv6 (USGv6) and IPv6 Ready Logo technical lead for the UNH-IOL.
Industry Outlook: Would you provide a quick overview on the USGv6 Profile?
Timothy Winters: The USGv6 Profile is a document created to help federal agencies plan for IPv6 technology acquisition. It’s based on the technical specifications that constitute the IPv6 standard and capabilities that aid in IPv6 deployment. The USGv6 Test Program derives from the USGv6 Profile and allows for testing of the capabilities listed in the profile. Among these capabilities are Core, IPsec, DHCP, OSPF, BGP and Netconf. The USGv6 Test Program helps both suppliers and buyers ensure IPv6 acquisitions are what IPv6 deployments need.
IO: What are the latest updates to the USGv6 profile?
TW: The USGv6 Profile is going through its first revision since the initial release and has several goals. The first goal is separating the definition of IPv6 Capability Profiles from their specific use in USGv6 to permit other user groups to also employ the capabilities. The new document, called NIST IPv6 Profile, updates the IETF specifications to the latest publications while adding new capabilities for emerging use cases such as Internet of Things, the latest IPv6 transition mechanisms and better testing for IPv6-enabled applications. Finally the document moves to testing and operating equipment in IPv6-only environments. Since IPv4 addresses are exhausted, new networks—in particular, mobile and data center networks—are often IPv6 only.
IO: How does the USGv6 Test Program work with global programs to aid in IPv6 deployments?
TW: The USGv6 Test Program works closely with the IPv6 Ready Logo program to ensure the testing programs work together and employ the testing available through that program. The IPv6 Ready Logo program has been testing for over 15 years and is supported by labs and vendors from all around the world. Over 1,500 devices already have the IPv6 Ready Core Logo.
IO: Why is IPv6 important for IoT and SDN?
TW: Internet of Things (IoT) devices are small objects on networks communicating with each other and, often, with cloud services as well. Software-defined networking (SDN) is the idea that networks are so complex that they need to be programmed by software. The larger address space that IPv6 offers aids the deployment of both IoT and SDN. It restores the end-to-end connections so that IoT deployments can directly connect over IPv6 without having to navigate network address translation (NAT). Using IPv6 addressing for SDN increases addressing flexibility for programming different network aspects.
IO: Why is compliance with the new USGv6 Profile important?
TW: The new profile includes updates to many of the specifications referenced in the first version. Network devices must incorporate these updates to help protect and expand network capabilities. As with the first profile, federal agencies will also require testing by the USGv6 Test Program before purchasing any IT gear. If suppliers haven’t tested to the new profile, they’ll suffer purchase delays or lost sales.
IO: What’s the current state of IPv6 adoption among federal agencies?
TW: Several metrics can measure IPv6 deployment. A recognizable example for IPv6 adoption is federal-agencies website available over IPv6. Currently, “Estimating USGv6 IPv6 Deployment Stats” has 344 sites available over IPv6 and 712 available over IPv4. Therefore, slightly less than half of the sites have IPv6. Although federal agencies had hoped to have all their sites available by now, every year they progress toward that goal. As the rest of the world deploys IPv6, they’re in a position to support many of the users.
IO: Is there a time frame for completing the IPv6 transition, and how urgent is the situation?
TW: Since no more IPv4 addresses are available for new networks, it’s essential to start deploying IPv6 now. Although an underutilized IPv4 address may exist in a network, deploying IPv6 will become essential as more devices come online. For the updated USGv6 Profile, users of the current USGv6 version should move fully to the new profile and test program within two years.
IO: Are federal agencies facing any major challenges that result from switching to IPv6?
TW: Agencies should be using the USGv6 Test Program to ensure they’re purchasing equipment that supports IPv6. Doing so will allow them to deploy IPv6 when ready, as they’ll be purchasing equipment that’s IPv6 compatible. Also, they still must ensure network engineers have the proper tools and training to complete the IPv6 network plan. This task includes confirming that network management and monitoring tools support IPv6 so network engineers can be informed of the changes.
IO: How does UNH-IOL aid in the process of applying USGv6 and adopting/deploying IPv6?
TW: As a USGv6 ISO-17025-accredited test lab for the USGv6 Test Program and IPv6 Ready Logo program, UNH-IOL provides comprehensive interoperability and conformance testing for network products. When passing results are available, the UNH-IOL ensures the proper documentation appears on the USGv6 Device List, allowing buyers to see what network functions a product offers. To support this testing, UNH-IOL undergraduate students develop and test IPv6 and associated protocols. On graduation they join the workforce to aid in understanding and adopting IPv6.