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Compaq Discloses Mobile IPv6 Ambitions

Compaq Computer Corporation has quietly launched a major push for the development and usage of IPv6. In what appears to be an effort to shed its image as a maker only of home PCs, the computer giant views IPv6 as the enabling technology that will allow it to take the lead in connecting the world through mobile devices.

"From top level management down, IPv6 has been identified as one of Compaq's enabling technologies and core assets," said Bennesa Lyon, senior manager of business development and high performance servers, at the Telecom division of Compaq.

She added that the company is committed to pushing the technology at every stage, from developing standards to bringing commercial products to market.

Quiet aggression

Although there has been little fanfare surrounding their efforts, Compaq has been involved with IPv6 virtually from the beginning.

"In 1993, our engineers developed prototypes with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to help define the look of the IP next generation protocol," noted Lyon.

In 1995, Compaq fielded the first public interoperability testing of IPv6 at TCP/IP expo. One of the first implementations of basic IPv6 functionality was offered in Compaq's early adopter kits in their Tru64 UNIX and OpenVMS operating systems. Last year, fully functional IPv6 capabilities were made commercially available in both operating systems.

The Compaq Tru64 UNIX version 5.1 operating system includes Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), which Compaq claims is the "first IP specification to use and define the IPv6 flow label -- data that establishes a packet's priority, which is essential for quality of service within IPv6." Additionally, an RSVP API is available that allows access to the IPv6 flow label to enable resource reservation across a network.

Mobile crusade

"In May of this year, in Stockholm, Compaq launched an IPv6 mobile demo which leverages our Tru64 UNIX AlphaServers and our iPAQ Pocket PC," Lyon said.

Lyon was hesitant to provide details about their Mobile IPv6 efforts, noting that it's in the research and development stage at the moment. "I can tell you that we are aggressively pursuing pieces of Mobile IPv6 along with some customer opportunities," she said. "We are also going to incorporate a number of pieces that will give it a unique telco flavor. It's very exciting."

Timetables for a commercial release are not clear. Early estimates said a Mobile IPv6 prototype kit would be available on the Tru64 UNIX platform in the "fall of this year." However, Lyon noted that a release data is dependent on "the basics of IPv6" along with development of "some of the Windows products like CE." According to Lyon, "much depends on getting IPv6 commercialized in Windows CE for the Pocket PC."

Compaq has also begun work on a translator or gateway for enabling communication to and from IPv6 and IPv4. Lyon sees this, along with having the basic IPv6 infrastructure in place, as a 'must have' if mobility is to become a reality. Another imperative is a firewall, which Compaq is also working on and plans to have available in the near future.

Multi-point offensive

Currently, Compaq offers a beta version of an IPv6 enabled Apache Web server along with an IPv6 enabled mail server and client for OpenVMS. Efforts are also underway to enhance current support for IPv6 in the Compaq operating systems.

According to Lyon, "the next generation of Tru64 UNIX and OpenVMS will add support for some transition mechanisms, tunneling and some DNS extensions APIs to the base operating system. In addition, with every server that runs Tru64 UNIX we include Internet Express, what some know as Open source solutions, which includes a mail server with Imap 4 or POP 3 interfaces, mail clients, pine, a send mail applications and a TCP wrapper application."

They may not be making much noise about it at the moment, but Compaq is positioning itself as a leader in the nurturing, growth and future of IPv6.

Jim Thompson is a freelance writer for sister site