Most Agencies Miss IPv6 Deadline

on September 28, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Despite a longstanding deadline and months of work, most federal agencies are about to miss the Sept. 30 deadline to enable IPv6 but will face no penalties for not reaching that goal.

Officials say Sept. 30 was a goal set by the Office of Management and Budget and that consequences for not meeting it are unnecessary. Nonetheless, compliance remains important as private industry v6 compliance is strong and therefore limits government interaction. Google, for example, launched IPv6 in June (see video with Vint Cerf above).

“I think the key here is for the agencies to really start piloting the operational pieces they have,” and continue to keep moving toward v6 readiness, said Steven Pirzchalski, IPv6 lead on transitioning the Department of Veterans Affairs to the new version of Internet protocol. He’s also the point person for the federal government to answer any v6 questions.

The federal government and private industry in the U.S. have been pushing to upgrade their ability to handle Internet traffic because the number of IPv4 Internet addresses worldwide will soon run out. Asia has already run out of v4 addresses. Europe and the U.S. will run out in 2013.

And it is becoming difficult for users in increasing parts of the world who access the Internet using v6 systems to communicate with entities whose web pages still rely on v4 addresses.

About 25%, or 332 domains, out of 1,300 across the federal landscape, have operational web servers that meet the v6 standard.

“Almost every agency has some number of services enabled,” said Douglas Montgomery, manager of NIST’s Internet & Scalable Systems Research, Internet Technology Laboratory.

Nearly half of the .gov domains have made real progress toward deployment, he said. But with hundreds of domains within every agency, it has been tough to meet the target date.

Montgomery said an interim solution allows V6 compliant entities to use a translating proxy to become v4 compliant for a particular task and communicate with v4 entities. But the process isn’t optimal.

“It will add complexity and brittleness to the system,” Montgomery said. “All agencies will continue working to roll these services out. I expect the progress to continue.”

The VA has been enabled since March. The departments of Education and Energy are compliant as well. And many parts of agencies that have distinct domains have reached the goal, too, he said.

Part of the reason for the slow transition is that agencies are finding “dead sites” that have to be taken down instead of transitioned.

Other delays faced by agencies: Most agencies did not have a plan for deploying IPv6 prior to OMB’s mandate in 2010; the mandate did not include any additional funding; and agencies had to modify existing contracts with vendors to get the technical help they needed.

“A lot of agencies have made significant progress. Now you’ll see more and more agencies going green,” predicts Dale Gessey, Chief Operating Officer at Auspex Technologies, LLC, a government contractor, and v6 expert.

By 2014, Pirzchalski agencies will be required to comply internally with v6.

“As we continue the progress of enablement, this has actually helped us position for 2014,” he said.