Vista's IPv6: Not an easy upgrade

Microsoft execs admit steep learning curve for new Internet protocol

Microsoft responds to Vista's IPv6 problems

Although Vista's IPv6 stack has been on the market for only eight months, early adopters already are reporting some problems with it, particularly with printing and network management applications.

Microsoft says these sorts of glitches are normal, given the scale of the upgrade to IPv6. "If you go back to the late '90s, when people were replacing their IPX networks with TCP/IP, the kind of problems they were having are no different than the kinds of problems you're hearing about anecdotally," Mitchell says. "Sometimes the only way to get things up and running was uninstalling TCP/IP. We don't expect any of our customers to have a plug-and-play experience, because of the nature of what IPv6 is."

Mitchell says network managers probably will run into interoperability problems between Vista and network-attached printers that don't support IPv6. Configuration problems also will be common, he predicts. "There are going to be a lot of questions about how to configure routers and switches around IPv6," he says. "It's nothing unusual. We run into those kinds of problems with IPv4, and this is a new protocol."

Microsoft says several of its enterprise customers including the U.S. Department of Defense and Bechtel are testing Vista's IPv6 capabilities in their labs. So far these companies have run into the kinds of configuration problems common with a protocol upgrade, Microsoft says.

"We haven't run into any show-stoppers," Siler says. "The biggest questions we see deal with configuration. They deal with, how is this feature working and why does my machine always have an IP address. It's a matter of understanding the technology better and how to control it."

Third-party certifications for Vista

A few third parties have verified Vista's IPv6 capabilities. For example, the Defense Department's Joint Interoperability Test Center has certified Vista as IPv6-capable.

Vista testing is ongoing at the University of New Hampshire Inter Operability Lab (UNH-IOL), which ran a series of tests on Vista's IPv6 stack in June. The tests were run over Moonv6, the world's largest IPv6 test bed, which is operated by UNH-IOL.

UNH-IOL created and shared files using Vista's IPv6 software, Adobe's Dreamweaver Web-design tool and Microsoft's MeetingSpace collaboration software. UNH-IOL also tested Microsoft's Longhorn server's IPv6 software and its FTP features. "We proved that applications do work on top of Vista," says Erica Johnson, senior manager of software and applications at UNH-IOL. "All of the Vista testing was proved under dual-stack conditions, as well as IPv6-only."

UNH-IOL also printed documents from Vista's IPv6 software using printers from HP, Konica Minolta and Xerox. "How well Vista handles printing depends on . . . whether the printer company has capable drivers," Johnson says.

Although Johnson says the latest round of Moonv6 tests proved that important office applications will work with Microsoft's Vista's IPv6 implementation, she says it was difficult for the lab's IPv6 experts to get everything to work. "If you had zero knowledge of IPv6, you would have a hard time learning how to set up these servers," she says. "There's going to be a knowledge gap for network administrators and IPv6 developers. They're going to have a hard time setting up simple servers for an IPv6 network."

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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