Companies focus wares on IPv6 transition

Hexago sees a market for gateway devices to span the gap between IPv4 and IPv6

Small and midsize companies have jumped into the IPv6 market to help agencies understand and prepare for a fundamental shift to the new protocol. Although procurement officials are looking ahead two years to assess their critical expenses related to IPv6, vendors must be ready now, market experts say.

“It’s ripe right now to get with the right person who will be the IPv6 transition manager and just solicit and say, ‘Hey, we’re here to help,’ ” said Peter Tseronis, director of network services at the Education Department and co-chairman of the CIO Council’s IPv6 Working Group.

Agencies are hunting for that killer application to ease their transition to the new IP, Tseronis said.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo Aug. 2, 2005, mandating agencies to move to IPv6. The directive requires agencies to build IPv6 network backbones by June 30, 2008. IPv6 increases address space, promotes flexibility and functionality, and enhances security.

Businesses have recognized the growing market spawned by OMB’s IPv6 mandate and are creating products and services with an eye on the transition deadline, which is only 19 months away.

The potential federal market is big. “It’s tens of millions of dollars over the next couple of years for us,” said Bruce Sinclair, president and chief executive officer of IPv6 solutions provider Hexago.

In a recent Juniper Networks survey, 67 percent of nearly 300 industry leaders said the mandated transition is accelerating the pace of developing IPv6-capable products and services. But a Cisco Systems survey in June found that less than 8 percent of the 200 defense and civilian IPv6 decision-makers surveyed said their agencies had completed their transition plans.

In October, Montreal-based Hexago, which has 25 employees, opened a new office in Arlington, Va. The facility will allow the company to support its federal customers, which include the Defense Information Systems Agency.

In 2002, it moved into the IPv6 world with “a new product for a new problem that people are having right now,” Sinclair said. The Gateway6 tunneling appliance allows IPv6 services or devices to be used in existing IPv4 networks immediately because it may be decades before agencies have all the technology to be fully IPv6-ready.

The Hexago business model is one way small and midsize companies are helping federal agencies comply with the OMB mandate to transition to IPv6, said Tom Kopko, chairman of the IPv6 Committee for the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council.

“The rise of these IPv6-focused small businesses is exciting to see and also a good sign that they...are ready, able and already engaged,” said Kopko, who is Alcatel Government Solutions’ senior business development director for federal civilian agencies.

Sinclair said he expects Hexago to reap rewards from what he sees as the biggest technological upgrade in history. “We’re chasing IPv6 opportunities everywhere.”
IPv6 and the last mileTelecommunications experts say the last mile is the most expensive part of a telecom transition, including the upgrade to IPv6. The last mile refers to the final connection between the Internet provider and the desktop and laptop computers on any wired or wireless computer. Making all of them IPv6-capable is exponentially more expensive than building the backbone infrastructure, said Bruce Sinclair, president and chief executive officer of IPv6 solutions provider Hexago.

The company’s Gateway6 device can help agencies transition to IPv6 in stages, he said. The product uses tunneling techniques to enable IPv4 devices to use IPv6 applications.

Sinclair said the device is a stopgap way for agencies to meet the Office of Management and Budget’s mandate to transition to IPv6 incrementally without a loss of service. He compared the process with the advent of compatible color TV programming when most homes still had monochrome sets that could receive color programs only in black and white.

— Matthew Weigelt

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