Navy tests NGI compatibility

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar) center in Charleston, S.C., is testing Next Generation Internet (NGI) technologies so that the rest of the federal government can enjoy the benefits sooner.

"We are trying to evaluate IPv6 and its related technologies to see its impact and benefit to the military," said Michael Brig, NGI program manager. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), a 128-bit protocol, will replace the current 32-bit IPv4.

"We have a wide-area network pilot, and we're testing commercial applications as they are ported to IPv6," he said.

Some of the popular applications the Charleston center has tested include name services and e-mail programs, but Brig also noted that Quake, a popular PC game, has been converted to IPv6. Because the Marine Corps used a modified version of Doom, another shooting game, to provide training, Quake could have similar applications, Brig said.

The testing has provided valuable insights into the behavior of the ported applications.

"We are finding certain behaviors of some applications that are not as we had assumed," Brig said. Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer Web browser, for example, doesn't look for an IPv4 software "stack" on servers that have dual IPv6 and IPv4 stacks. If Internet Explorer has a problem reading a page on the IPv6 stack, it doesn't automatically check for an IPv4 stack to see if it can read the Web page on that stack, Brig said.

The problem isn't serious, and there is plenty of time to fine-tune applications before the NGI is used by many federal agencies. But such problems are the types of issues that must be addressed before NGI technology can be used with confidence across the federal spectrum.

— Dan Carney

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