Too Little, Too Late: The Feds call for IPv6

Yes, we certainly should be switching over to IPv6, but the Federal government calling for it now is a case of too little, too late.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I had an interesting conversation with my Web-hosting company the other day. They told me that American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) has told them that they need to start restricting IPv4, ala Internet, addresses. The long-predicted IPv4 number drought effects are finally being felt.

Lucky us. That's why I look with more than a little bit of cynicism at people declaring that Federal CIO Vivek Kundra issuing a memo (PDF Link) requiring all federal agencies to upgrade their public-facing Web services to native IPv6 by September 30, 2012 is a "Game Changer." The game has already changed, and the Feds are two-steps behind.

Kundra's memo also establishes a second deadline of September 30, 2014 for federal agencies to upgrade internal client applications that communicate with public Internet servers to use native IPv6. All Federal agencies will also be required to designate an IPv6 transition manager to direct IPv6-related activities, and, of course, they must also have network hardware and software that complies with IPv6.

Sounds great. Where's the money going to come from to make all that happen? It's one thing to say we need to address a problem. Talk is cheap. It's another thing entirely to actually do something about the problem.

We're already behind in addressing the coming Internet address shortage, and I don't see issuing a memo with deadlines changing that problem one bit for the Federal government. After all, just now when I checked the IPv4 Address Report, we’ll run out of all IPv4 Internet addresses on January 22, 2012—seven months ahead of the Federal government's first deadline.

When we 'run out' of IPv4 addresses, it's not going to be like we just run into a wall. This will be a slow-motion crash as heretofore 'free' static Internet Protocol (IP) addresses become valuable commodities. But, since your enterprise or your government agency can still get just as hurt in this kind of smash-up as a fast one, I'd advise you to start putting spending money now to switch over to a hybrid Internet IPv4/IPv6 interface with the Internet.

If you do wait until the problem becomes critical, and that seems to be what the Federal government is planning, you'll only end up spending even more in the long run.

Editorial standards