US carriers quietly developing IPv6 services

New security, network-management services to support IPv6 transition

For a decade, IPv6 has been the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum: There has been little North American demand for IPv6, so US carriers haven't introduced IPv6 services; without commercial IPv6 services available from carriers, US government agencies and businesses can't migrate to the next-generation Internet technology.

Now, cracks are starting to appear in the IPv6 egg.

They haven't released many details yet, but US carriers say they are developing commercial services that will take advantage of IPv6, a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol known as IPv4. Many of the new services are due out in the next year, carriers say.

IPv6 uses a 128-bit addressing scheme and supports a virtually limitless number of devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv4, on the other hand, has 4.3 billion addresses, and most of them have been handed out. IPv4 address space is expected to run out by 2012, a deadline that is forcing carriers around the world to migrate to IPv6.

"We've seen commitments by the major telecom carriers. They're going to be IPv6 ready and enabled by 2010," says Jerry Edgerton, CEO of Command Information, a provider of IPv6 services whose carrier customers include Verizon and British Telecom. "These carriers are now global players, and so are their customers. IBM just moved its supply chain management to China last year. This globalization factor is going to drive demand to IPv6. If I'm a global enterprise, I need to be compatible with the rest of the world."

The US carrier that is out in front on IPv6 is NTT America, which began offering IPv6 access services in North America in 2003. NTT has been a leader in the development of new IPv6 offerings, such as an IPv6-enabled managed-firewall service in 2005. That's why The Planet recently chose NTT America to supports its IPv6-based hosting services.

Kazuhiro Gomi, CTO of NTT America, says there is a lack of managed security services for IPv6 available on the market. That's one reason NTT America's parent company has developed a multipolicy IPv6 VPN, which is available for purchase in Japan. NTT's IPv6 Multi-Policy Access service, which was launched in August 2007, uses dedicated encryption machines that let customers use a secure VPN to link IPv6 devices operating on different networks. Network managers have access to an on-demand security-policy feature that allows them to set policies for different devices.

"US corporate CIOs should be aware of IPv6 development in Japan," Gomi says. "It is actually being deployed in a massive manner in Japan. So much has been said over the last four to five years about when it is coming, but I think people should be aware that it actually is coming."

Other US carriers have been offering IPv6 services that aren't in their product catalogs. Most of their IPv6-related development work is targeting federal agencies, which are required to enable IPv6 on their backbone networks by June 30 and say they will do just that. (Neither Verizon Business nor Global Crossing would comment for this story).

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Network World
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