GSA seeks a catalyst role in its plans for an IPv6 program office

NIST will recommend a set of standards and specifications for the federal government to use when it buys IPv6 products.

The General Services Administration could open a program office as early as May to support its IPv6 activities. A senior GSA official said such a move would help position the agency to become a federal leader in providing products with GSA’s IPv6-ready seal of approval.Government IPv6 leaders say creating a GSA program office centered on IPv6 procurement activity could also help convince a hesitant information technology community that the government is ready to buy IPv6 products. Companies have been hesitant to invest too much in IPv6 development until the government publishes its purchasing specifications.The Office of Management and Budget has asked federal agencies to start running the IPv6 protocol on their backbone networks by June 2008. “If a policy says, ‘Thou shall,’ we’re trying to make it real,” said John Johnson, GSA’s assistant commissioner for integrated technology services.Experts foresee most agencies meeting the deadline, although they expect there will be some stragglers. Many agency leaders view the transition to IPv6 as the next phase in the evolution of their networks, and they will insist on IPv6-ready products as they update their systems. GSA wants to be ready when that happens, Johnson said.  GSA has already built IPv6 requirements into major contracts, including its Networx telecommunications proposal. The agency has said it expects to award that contract sometime this month.The IPv6 program office is an idea that’s still taking shape, Johnson said. Officials are discussing what its focus should be and how to go about making available a wide assortment of items that are compatible with IPv6. Companies are waiting for a fixed set of standards from the government, said Peter Tseronis, director of network services at the Education Department and co-chairman of the CIO Council’s IPv6 Working Group. “They do not get involved based on potential,” he added.Companies still bear scars from the telecommunications bust of the late 1990s. Businesses made deep investments in competing protocols that did not pay off. “They’ve learned from that,” said John McManus, the Commerce Department’s  deputy chief information officer and chief technology officer. “They may have overlearned.”Tseronis said a GSA IPv6 program office coupled with work that the National Institute of Standards and Technology is doing on IPv6 standards and specifications could get the ball rolling. Tseronis added that “as the federal government continues to refine its IPv6 profile…vendor product lines will hopefully mature.”
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