IPv4 has been a military standard ever since the Internet first came into use in 1978, with substantial and sustained funding by the US Department of Defence (DOD) into IPv4 related technologies. However, with the address space depletion becoming a matter of imminent concern, the transition to an IPv6 driven Internet has been engaging the serious attention of the DOD in recent years. Migration to IPv6 is likely to have a far-reaching impact for Internet users in general and for the DOD in particular. IPv6
Key Reasons for IPv6 implementation
The major benefits to be derived from IPv6 are the much larger address space solution it offers, improved routing system, enhanced security (IPsec support is mandatory for all IPv6 compliant devices), and Quality of Service (QoS). The large address space capability would be vital to opening up channels of communication for USN (US Navy) & USMC (US Marine Corp) to meet their future needs.
Also, with new devices being constantly added to the communications arsenal of the USN and USMC activity, their interoperability is an imperative aspect, for which IPv6 would be the ideal answer. Moreover, in wartime, there is a visible proliferation of new facilities, personnel, and capabilities all of which have to get quickly connected with the rest of the enterprise. In addition to all these, there is improved support for mobile IP and mobile computing devices, with a much reduced administration need, on an IPv6 platform.
IPv6 makes it possible to implement new NCW (Network-centric warfare) concepts and guidelines, and also allows for advanced networking capabilities when compared with IPv4. Internet capable devices, applications and services will have improved functionality with IPv6. However, there will be increased costs during transition, owing to the need for infrastructure and network services enhancement, and some teething troubles and interoperability problems are to be expected while making the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 technologies.
The task of implementing IPv6 into an Army network is an onerous one, in that due care will have to be taken to ensure that the existing communications capability is by no means affected or impeded in the endeavor to develop a future capability. Secondly, the IPv6 network performance must be equivalent to or better than the existing IPv4 network; the existing capability with regard to auto-configuration, prioritization, converged voice and video, multicast, mobility and high-speed performance capabilities on the Army IPv4 networks is already of a high order. The challenge however, lies in the fact that while most IPv4 vendors are beginning to support IPv6 in the existing devices that run IPv4 networks, the equivalent features and capabilities of IPv6 are years behind IPv4. Vendors are consequently keen to build new IPv4 capabilities rather than to work on improving IPv6 services.
The DoD systematically replaces its communications hardware with IPv6-capable products, on an ongoing basis as needed. In addition, they use pilot programs to deal with issues like testing, modeling and simulation; developing policies; upgrading security archi-tec-ture; enhanced operations and maintenance; and training. They have put in place a set of 3 milestone objectives for conducting IPv6 pilot programs:
IPv6 Milestone Objective 1 (MO1) for using, getting familiarised with, and testing of IPv6 protocol and applications for operational pilots in order to ascertain issues and derive migration strategies. MO1 has been operational since 2005. Milestone Objective 2 (MO2) covers the evaluation of scalability and IPv6 information assurance implications using tunneling and native IPv6 routing.
This has been in sway since 2006. Milestone Objective 3 (MO3) targeted for 2008, will come into force when all policy, planning, and technical transition guidance has fallen into alignment to allow IPv6 traffic to exist on DoD operational networks. Applications and data owners will be completely IPv6-ready with at least the same if not higher, functionality, as it now exists in IPv4.
Projected DOD Timeline
The year 2012 is projected as the final timeline by which the US military and the DOD would be IPv6 ready in all respects. Delays in IPv6 implementation by the DOD to date have happened because commercial vendors see the DODs requirements as only a small part of the overall market in the communications industry. The situation is quite the reverse of what it was two decades back, when the defence set up was the prime mover in this area. In order to achieve the transition within the intended time frame, DoD will have to step up efforts to persuade vendors to develop IPv6 compatible products.
The APL is a list of commercial products that have demonstrated conformance to DoD standards, interoperability with DoD equipment, and a certain level of performance in IPv6. A mandate from the DoD IPv6 Transition Office (DITO) requiring vendors to develop and submit IPv6 compatible products for inclusion under the Approved Products List (APL) would give a fillip to the process of IPv6 implementation.