First test of IPv6 network goes well

An early test of a multisite, next-generation Internet, powered by IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) went well, and the coalition of groups working on the so-called Moonv6 project will conduct more comprehensive tests starting in February, said two people involved in the project Tuesday.

A white paper detailing the lessons learned from the first phase of the Moonv6 project, a project to test IPv6, should be available on the Moonv6 Web site, at http://moonv6.sr.unh.edu/, within two weeks. However, researchers reported Tuesday that their first two-week test of the network, which connected seven military sites across the U.S., seemed to run without major problems.

Simple applications such as FTP and HTTP ran smoothly over the new network and Internet security measures generally worked, said Ben Schultz, managing engineer at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory. "We only found small problems and small issues that need to be fixed," he said at the IPv6 Summit in Arlington, Virginia.

Schultz didn't disclose the white paper's details during the summit. The next test of the Moonv6 network, scheduled to run from early February to mid-April, will do longer-term testing of Internet applications, he said.

Among the participants in the two-week phase one test were the U.S. Department of Defense and 11 vendors involved with the Internet2 project. Schultz called the effort to work together on Moonv6 "very impressive."

IPv6, a new version of the Internet Protocol designed to offer better security and handle more IP addresses, is scheduled to power the U.S. Department of Defense's Global Information Grid by 2008. Cell phone and ISPs (Internet service providers) are gearing up to provide IPv6-based services in the U.S., and some companies and Europe and Asia are already using the new protocol.

On Tuesday, Verio, a subsidiary of NTT Communications Corp., announced what the vendor called the first large-scale commercial IPv6 product offering in North America, delivered over a newly upgraded NTT/Verio global IP network. With more IP addresses available in IPv6, companies interested in expanding worldwide may be interested in IPv6, company officials said.

The tests of the Moonv6 network will help vendors as they roll out those products, Schultz said. "It helps them because they can fix these problems before (the products) hit the streets," he said.

Asked by an audience member at the IPv6 Summit whether the Moonv6 team was able to test the network's performance, Schultz said it would be difficult. "It's really hard to design a good performance test that would be applicable to the real world," he said in an interview later.

The Moonv6 team learned some other good lessons during the first phase of the network, added U.S. Marine Major Roswell Dixon, the IPv6 action officer for the U.S. Joint Interoperability Test Command. Building the network took longer than expected, he said.

"It was like rebuilding the Internet," Dixon said. "I'm not going to say this thing went over easy."

Now that the network is up and running, the second phase of the project will be devoted to testing, Dixon added. "We're going to have enough time once we find glitches to investigate them in depth," he said of the next phase of the Moonv6 testing.

The Moonv6 project is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense, the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory, Internet2 and the North American IPv6 Task Force.

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