Meet the new Internet—the same as the old Internet?

RESTON, Va.—A major concern of the Defense Department’s IPv6 transition office is that the next generation of IP networks not repeat the mistakes of the last one.

“The thing that is troubling about [Internet Protocol] Version 6 is that many people are pushing forward and implementing IPv6 in the architecture they already have,” transition office director Charles Lynch said at the Coalition IPv6 Summit. “IPv6 requires a new infrastructure.”

DOD is working to create a network-centric infrastructure that will enable information sharing between and among U.S. military units and allies to give real time situational awareness on the front lines.

“We don’t have a common air, sea and surface view,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner, deputy commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command. “We don’t have the system to do that. We’re trying to fix that.”

That is the operational requirement underlying DOD’s mandate to move to IPv6 beginning in 2008. The speed of the transition will depend on budgets, political commitment and difficulties encountered in the course of the transition, speakers at the summit said.

But the process will require at least a decade. “It will probably take until 2010 to 2015 for IPv6 to become the dominant protocol,” Lynch said.

The new IPv6-enabled network will require new architectures for routing and security to accommodate the level of communication it is intended to support, Lynch said. “It is the end-to-end model we have to consider.”

But current planning primarily duplicates the existing IPv4 structure, with its limited address space and lack of authentication and security.

“This is becoming evident in the last two or three years in the way people are acquiring address space,” Lynch said.

New applications and functionality will require use of the expanded address space of IPv6. One example is geospatial addressing. The first 64 bits of the 128-bit address space available in IPv6 are used to identify the device or user. The last 64 bits can be used to define where the user is.

DOD is contemplating a grid system that would let it pinpoint the location of devices in three dimensions. A Global Positioning System signal would be injected into devices to specify the location-dependent portion of the address. Such a scheme requires advance planning for address needs, Lynch said.

“Look at the long view,” he said. “Look at where you need to be 20 years from now and try to capture enough address space for that.”

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