What's Next for IPv6 in the U.S.?

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Looking ahead on IPv6

Still, the mandate hasn't been a complete disappointment. One of its benefits has been that it's encouraged government agencies to consider IPv6 as a purchasing criterion for all of their technology -- even if they haven't come around to the idea of adopting it fully for transit.

"They may not be purchasing IPv6 transit today, however, their hardware is enabled to do so," Davis explained. "So when the time comes to turn IPv6 on, they're prepared and don't need to do a forklift upgrade."

Other government network contractors see funding for IPv6-related initiatives as a key driver for further deployments.

"I know in talking with several leaders of several different government agencies that once the funding comes, they will expand their planning and expedite deployments of IPv6 across their networks," Global Crossing's Camarotti said.

And despite the U.S. government's slowness of adopting IPv6, NTT's Davis it's still helped by taking a leadership role -- and even now ranks near the front of the pack among governments that are turning to IPv6.

He noted that in NTT's home country of Japan, the government has been active in IPv6, but it hasn't taken the step of issuing mandates.

"The U.S. was the beneficiary of the lion's share of IPv4 addresses to begin with," Davis said. "So we haven't felt crunch here, and so IPv4 will probably live longer here then elsewhere."

Global Crossing's Siegel said that an additional mandate issued by the U.S. government could help move IPv6 adoption farther along.

"Where it gets fun is when a mandate comes to phase out IPv4," he said. "That's when issues will come to light and that's when every device will have to support IPv6."

No such mandate has been issued by the government to date, and Siegel said he couldn't predict when IPv4 ultimately might be phased out in favor of IPv6 -- adding that he had, so far, been wrong when forecasting when IPv6 might become broadly deployed.

"It's been a great lesson in the difference between a technology being ready to deploy and the 'people aspect' of adoption," Siegel said. "If there is a motivation, then things tend to happen, whereas if there is no motivation, people will drag their feet."

Camarotti agreed.

"If you look at departments and agencies, change is oftentimes painful," he added. "They typically go with what they know, and if they're comfortable with IPv4, there will be a resistance to change unless they are required to change."

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