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IPv6 offers more than extra addresses

Even though the U.S. isn't likely to run out of Internet addresses anytime soon, one expert at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference said there are many good reasons to use IPv6.

SAN DIEGO -- Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) offers a whole lot more than just a remedy to the Internet address shortage associated with IPv4, according to one industry expert.

E-business and wireless applications are driving people to connect more functions directly to the Internet, said Cody Christman, director of product engineering for Verio Inc., an Englewood, Colo.-based Web hosting company, who spoke at the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference Wednesday.

While it's not a problem today in the U.S., Christman said, over time the number of devices and applications on the Internet will surpass the number of people on the Internet, creating a demand for more IP addresses than the current IPv4 infrastructure can provide.

Christman said this issue will drive companies to migrate their applications to IPv6, which solves the impending address shortage problem by lengthening addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits. But, he added, that won't be the only driver.

"IPv6 is much more than just a solution for an address problem," Christman said.

IPv6 offers vastly improved security over IPv4, he said. One such tool is a traffic classifier, which allows incoming Internet traffic to be identified and redirected based on security needs and other protocols.

Another improvement is that the IPv6 header now includes extensions that allow users to authenticate the origin of an incoming packet, which goes a long way toward ensuring data integrity and privacy.

Christman said that other improvements over IPv4 include increased scalability, transparency and ease of use. Also, he said IPv6 provides a means for improved bi-directional communication between applications and end users, as well as increased device and application mobility.

"Mobile IPv4 didn't work very well," Christman said. "IPv6 was built from the ground floor for mobility."

Critics claim that the need for IPv6 is exaggerated because the U.S. has an abundance of addresses available under IPv4.

But those critics fail to resonate with Rich Orchard, a routing and switching engineer for the U.S. Navy.

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Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) mandated that all its organizations and everyone doing business with them had to be IPv6 enabled by 2008. For Orchard and other government IT employees, that means the time to migrate is now.

"My involvement is because of the DOD mandate," Orchard said. "We all have to migrate, so it's not really an option for us."

Orchard, who has been attending IPv6 conferences and doing research on the topic, said that he thinks private sector interest in IPv6 is also picking up. He said Nokia, for example, has shifted its emphasis away from developing IPv4 cell phone applications.

When looking to upgrade to IPv6, Orchard said it's important to examine every single system in your data center.

"In some ways it's similar to Y2K, without the deadline," Orchard said. "You have to look at everything you've got and then figure out what you need to touch."

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