IPv6 Backbone Passes Latest Test

A permanent U.S. backbone network employing the next Internet protocol, IPv6, has cleared a second set of tests, the North American IPv6 Task Force said Monday.

The new IPv6 backbone, which stretches from New Hampshire to California, now works with high-speed links, firewalls, routing, common applications and quality of service (QoS) standards for business applications, including multimedia.

The latest test was conducted by industry leaders, the North American IPv6 Task Force, the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL), Internet2 and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). It involved multiple service providers and networking companies in a two-week long series of trials covering network routing, security, applications and transition mechanisms.

“The success rates we’ve seen here argue that IPv6 is clearing the hurdles to inevitable adoption. We plan to continue industry-wide, multi-vendor testing on a rolling basis,” said Ben Schultz, managing engineer at UNH-IOL.

Schultz added, “The core network will remain up and running to peer with Internet2, and dedicated links from service providers such as AT&T will be used to deploy applications and services on native IPv6.”

The North American Task force said the pilot network, dubbed Moonv6, successfully tested end-to-end domain name server (DNS) functionality on Linux, Microsoft, Sun and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX operating systems over the wide area network between Durham, N.H., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Jim Bound, chair of the North American Task Force, said IPv6 allows different classes of traffic to maintain different priorities. So networks can give important phone calls or video streams, for example, priority over routine file transfers or e-mail.

The testing also included successful demonstrations of Microsoft Windows Media Player and Panasonic IPv6-controlled Web-enabled video cameras that operate over the native IPv6 network topology. Several commercially available media conferencing software applications were also tested, such as France Telecom’s eConf, an application that transforms PDAs equipped with a miniature camera into mobile videophone devices via a wireless video link between two pocket PCs.

In addition, the testing showed that dual-stack configurations (networks running IPv6 and the current protocol, IPv4, in parallel), provide the most seamless method of accommodating both protocols during the next several years, when both will need to coexist on the Internet.

IPv4 has been in use for almost 30 years and cannot support emerging requirements for address space, mobility and security in peer-to-peer networking.

IPv6 is designed to overcome the shortcomings of IPv4. It also adds improvements, such as routing and networking auto-configuration. IPv6 will coexist with IPv4 and eventually provide better internetworking capabilities than those currently available with IPv4.

U.S. implementation of IPv6 is considered a critical step for the American technology industry since Europe and the Pacific Rim have been aggressively developing advanced services, particularly in the mobile computing sector, for the new protocol while interest in this country has lagged.

That changed last year when the Pentagon announced it would convert to IPv6 within the next three years. In support of the Pentagon’s efforts, the IPv6 Task Force announced in October the launch of North America’s largest IPv6 pilot network.

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