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Could a U.S. Shift to IPv6 Cost $75B?

Moving to IPv6 will present a number of challenges for the U.S. federal government, not the least of which is the associated price tag, which could hit $75 billion.

A new 63-page report issued late last week by the IPv6 Summit and Juniper Networks offers U.S. federal agencies a bevy of suggestions on how best to go about transitioning to IPv6.

The government is supposed to be on a relatively rapid path toward IPv6 migration since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandated (PDF file) this past August that the federal government move to IPv6 by June 2008.

Last week's report, titled "IPv6 Best Practices World Report Series: Guide for Federal Agencies Transitioning to IPv6," recommends that federal agencies develop a business case for moving to IPv6, centralize their migration tactics and define metrics to help track transition progress.

IPv6 is a new communications paradigm that requires a different approach.

"Reliance on past concepts will prohibit the realization of new IPv6 capabilities," the report notes. Federal agencies should develop organizational measures of effectiveness that relate the technical features of IPv6 milestones and the business strategy.

"Can IPv6 aid in achieving the organization's strategic vision and mission?" the report asks. "The answer is 'yes' if agencies understand its potential and the new communications paradigm it creates."

It is also recommended that agencies look at IPv6 as a convergence technology as much as a networking technology.

In terms of infrastructure for IPv6, the deployment of IPv6-capable DNS services is noted to be one of the first infrastructure components that should be undertaken as part of a deployment plan.

The report recommends BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) version 9 or higher, because it supports IPv6 AAAA records, DNS Security (DNSsec) and Secret Key Transaction Authentication for DNS.

Technology isn't the greatest challenge of moving to IPv6, though.

"The technology challenge was not really as great as the planning," Dale Geesey, one of the authors of the report, told internetnews.com. When one takes care of the planning, the technology becomes much easier."

Lou Ann Brossman, director of federal marketing for Juniper Networks said that there are no surprises in the report.

"The value that it brings is that it was designed to serve as a guide for federal agencies transitioning to IPv6. It's also valuable because it is based on global interviews, surveys and public presentations on the transition," Brossman told internetnews.com.

Juniper is no stranger to IPv6 deployments and is currently involved in helping China roll out what may turn into the world's largest IPv6 deployment.

There are, however, some significant financial and leadership challenges that still need to be resolved in the migration.

Alex Lightman, chairman of the IPv6 Summit, told internetnews.com that among the items left undone is defining who will be in charge and who can devote undivided attention to the transition to IPv6.

And he Lightman also raised the question of who will actually pay for the transition.

"There is an unreleased report by the Dept. of Commerce estimating it will take $25-$75 billion to pay for the transition, according to one of our speakers," Lightman said. "So what part of that will the U.S. government pay for? Do we need to do a tax credit, something Japan has already implemented?"