Times Up IPv6

Antonio Piraino

Three years ago, the OMB set a June 2008 deadline “by which all agencies’ infrastructure (network backbones) must be using IPv6 and agency networks must interface with this infrastructure.” Agencies are supposed to demonstrate that they can:

  • Transmit IPv6 traffic from the Internet and external peers, through the core (WAN), to the LAN.
  • Transmit IPv6 traffic from the LAN, through the core (WAN), out to the Internet and external peers.
  • Transmit IPv6 traffic from the LAN, through the core (WAN), to another LAN (or another node on the same LAN).

(Source: OMB IPv6 FAQs) One year ago, the OMB reviewed the Enterprise Architecture Assessment Framework results and found that six of the twenty-four agencies were on track to achieve the June deadline. Two months ago, there was a good article by Carolyn Marsan Duffy about the status of compliance. Take a look at this article because it seemed like there was a lot of backpedaling going on about meeting the date – using phrases like “we don’t like the term mandate” and “more of a recommendation than a mandate.” At the time, only three agencies were in compliance. Duffy just wrote an updated article, “Feds say they have aced IPv6 deadline”, and suddenly two months later, all lights seem green. As of June 24, ten of the twenty-four agencies sent emails to the OMB stating that “they have successfully transmitted IPv6 packets”. Fourteen still need to report in, but none have asked for an extension. And all of it was done through the regular tech refresh budget over the past three years. So if this is true, kudos to the feds! Right around the time of the first not-so-rosy article, we ran a survey at FOSE, the big federal government IT show. We asked attendees if their agencies would be ready by the deadline:

  • 33% said they would be ready
  • 6% said they were already there
  • 33% said they would NOT be ready
  • About a quarter didn’t know

What was really interesting is that we asked this same question in 2007, and the audience was equally split (yes/no) on whether or not their agencies would meet the mandate – 1 in 5 (2007) instead of 1 in 3 (2008). So what can explain these numbers? Surprisingly, out of the attendees we talked to, only 65% of them said that IPv6 is important to their operations, making it second to last on the list of IT priorities covered by the survey. Maybe the answer lies in the relative “unimportance” of the milestone – that just the network backbones (and the routers supporting them) be capable of passing IPv6 packets. The true test for government IT workers will be when actual IPv6 applications must be supported which will impact networks, systems, application and monitoring tools throughout the government. So was this a nice checklist item for the Bush administration? This initial deadline is the only one for IPv6 mandates from the current OMB incarnation. Actually running IPv6 applications, that’s a whole ‘nother story, apparently for a new administration.

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