The IPv6 elevator speech
FAA's Mark Powell says transition managers must be ready to deliver a short, memorable speech about IPv6
Editor’s note: Maxine Lunn, research director at 1105 Government Information Group, surveyed agencies and vendors on their IPv6 awareness and readiness. Watch a short video of her discussing the results at www.fcw.com/360/ipv6.
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Jan 31, 2008
In 2005, agency officials knocked on Mark Powell’s office door. They were looking for someone to lead the Federal Aviation Administration’s transition to the next-generation Internet.
Soon thereafter, Powell, the agency’s chief technology officer, was handed the challenge.
Many federal agencies have appointed transition managers to be advocates for IPv6. Transition managers are given the authority to implement an Office of Management and Budget policy that requires agencies to install IPv6 software on their networks by June 30. Those managers will be busy with many tasks between now and the deadline, but they say their toughest challenge will be getting the attention of senior executives.
IPv6 is a tough sell, and the only opportunity to pitch it might be during an unplanned encounter with an agency’s top executive. Powell said transition managers must be ready to deliver a short, memorable speech about IPv6, often referred to as an elevator pitch. Who knows when information technology officials might have an opportunity to make a brief presentation to senior executives? Powell’s first recommendation to managers writing such speeches is to drop the term IPv6 and replace it with next-generation Internet.
Besides being free of technical terms, the elevator speech should be tailored to the agency’s mission, Powell said. Use words that put transition into perspective and create buzz, he said. Talk about how the world has changed since the Internet was created.
Powell said he wasn’t altogether thrilled about his new assignment in 2005. “I was more cautious than anything else,” he said.He wanted to make certain he knew precisely what FAA and OMB wanted and what authority he had to accomplish it.
Soon, however, Powell and his colleague Doug Roseboro, FAA’s program director for enterprise IT research and development, were charting a course for the transition and developing bullet points for their elevator speeches to senior executives. Those people have many priorities competing for their attention, Powell said.
He decided to put his speech in historical context by dramatizing how the foundational technology of the Internet, IPv4, has become outdated. IPv4 was new when “Ronald Reagan was president, ‘Three’s Company’ was a brand-new show, ‘Cagney and Lacey’ was really popular, and IBM released a new computer called the IBM PC,” Powell told a group of FAA executives in his introduction to the next-generation Internet.
That got their attention. He explained what has to be done by June 30 and what lies ahead. OMB has asked agencies to install IPv6 software on their backbone network routers so they are prepared by June 30 to move IPv6 traffic between the Internet and local-area networks within the agency and from LAN to LAN through the backbone network. Agencies have some additional time to prepare for running IPv6 software on their desktop computers.
OMB has not set a further deadline.
Powell and other IPv6 transition managers still face challenges in getting their agencies’ attention focused on the next-generation Internet. A new survey from the 1105 Government Information Group, which owns Federal Computer Week, found that 254 government officials involved in the transition face similar obstacles: a lack of resources and senior leaders who are unfamiliar with their agencies’ network s or with IPv6 as a tool for modernizing those networks.
More important, many of those officials said few agency employees backed the initiative, and the business executives at their agencies were not behind it either. After asking what IPv6 was, they questioned why the government needed it, according to the survey.
Officials who knew about IPv6 understood the reasons why OMB has made the transition mandatory. A few survey participants said the next generation of the Internet will be defined by greater use of voice, video and visual displays of data, in addition to improved security and greater network reliability.
Furthermore, remote sensors and cameras on IPv6 networks could capture data anywhere and anytime.
With IPv6, agencies will see improvements in how they conduct transactions via the Internet, said Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and IT. “Agencies should be focusing on how to use the capabilities of IPv6 to advance agency missions while also improving IT services and cybersecurity,” she said.
Soon after being named transition manager, Powell joined Roseboro in looking for help and advice. They went to the Defense Department and talked to other agencies about their strategies. They also obtained transition plans from the Defense Information Systems Agency, which was ahead of most agencies. Transition documents
DISA began its transition to the next-generation Internet in 2003. Kristopher Strance, the agency’s senior IT analyst and IPv6 transition manager, said DISA began moving all of its unclassified networks to IPv6 after Congress added a provision to the fiscal 2003 Defense Authorization bill that made the transition mandatory.
The legislation required DOD to write transition plans and submit them to congressional committees for review, with annual updates. Congress also asked for a plan for issuing IPv6 addresses to the intelligence community.
In addition to requesting copies of DISA’s transition plans, Powell and Roseboro asked their bosses to form a special committee. They talked to executives at FAA and asked each of them to appoint a representative from his or her division.
Those representatives became part of a steering committee that helped guide FAA’s transition.
An important consideration in forming a committee is finding the right people, said Peter Tseronis, chairman of the CIO Council’s IPv6 Working Group and director of network services at the Education Department. “You have to get people who want to do this,” he said. Otherwise, they won’t help.
Powell and Roseboro sat down with individual committee members to talk about the next-generation Internet. Those briefings and other communications were critical for ensuring that the members understood how the IPv6 policy would affect their operations.
Powell said it is best not to make IPv6 sound too much like the world of George Jetson. Forget about talking refrigerators that know when the family is getting low on milk and call the grocery store to order more.
Members of FAA’s IPv6 steering committee often asked Powell what happened to IPv5. And he had a ready answer: IPv5 was created in the 1970s, but it never caught on. IPv4 was working so well that IPv5 ended up as “the Betamax of protocols.”
At a recent luncheon on IPv6, Tseronis and Tim Schmidt, CTO at the Transportation Department and the IPv6 Working Group’s vice chairman, showed transition managers a video to illustrate how the next-generation Internet will connect various pieces of public safety equipment.
The video offered an example that transition managers could use in explaining the benefits of IPv6: A huge fire erupts in a tunnel in the aftermath of a tanker truck accident. Alerts go out to paramedics, firefighters and police departments connected via the next- gener ion Internet. Meanwhile, traffic lights equipped with sensors slow the flow of traffic headed toward the scene.
To make a successful transition, Tseronis said, “you’ve got to be seeing beyond 2008.”
DISA and DOD officials are envisioning how they will use the next-generation Internet. DOD wants to assign IP addresses to warfighters, their weapons, unmanned airplanes, ships and Humvees, Strance said. “That’s the vision.”
Meanwhile, DISA is taking the walk-before-you-run approach.
Officials are watching how IPv6 works on the agency’s unclassified network before beginning the transition on its classified network, which Strance said he expects to happen in 2010. Address depletion
The most noticeable problem that IPv6 will solve is a global shortage of IP addresses.
Experts say almost 70 percent of all IPv4 addresses have been allocated and another 13 percent are unavailable or reserved, which leaves 17 percent available.
They estimate that those addresses could be depleted in four years, given the rate at which people worldwide are connecting to the Internet. For example, the number of Internet users in China increased 53 percent in one year as 210 million people connected to the Internet in 2007.
IPv4 has 4.3 billion IP addresses, but the world population already exceeds 6 billion. Mostly because of the limited number of remaining Internet addresses, many countries have already made the transition to the next-generation Internet.
For example, Japan’s meteorological agency has installed more than 1,000 sensors throughout the country to detect the small tremors that occur immediately before devastating earthquakes.
When the initial tremors begin, an alert system sends warnings to people nationwide, said Kazuhiro Gomi, vice president of NTT America, a telecommunications company that worked with the Japanese government on the project, which was launched in July 2007.
Gomi said the system could be further developed to activate automated fire-suppression systems, stop elevators and close valves on gas pipelines.
Congressional leaders in the United States are encouraged by the possibilities.
“IPv6 holds promise,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus. “The benefits for first responders and law enforcement are also very exciting aspects of this new technology.”
Although the United States is still widely seen as the global leader in IT, some people are concerned that the country could begin falling behind because it has been slow to adopt the next-generation Internet. “There’s a little national pride at stake here,” said Brad Boston, senior vice president of global government solutions at Cisco Systems.
FAA is doing its part to bring the federal government up to speed on technology that could become critical for public safety and the country’s technological leadership. Powell said FAA will be ready to pass IPv6 traffic on its backbone network before the June 30 deadline.
OMB hasn’t indicated whether federal agencies would be penalized for missing the deadline, but Tseronis said there’s only one reason why an agency would fail to meet it.
“You didn’t make it a priority,” he said.