The Australian federal government backed IPv6 for e-Business project has yielded an Ubuntu-based IPv6 router that is now being trialled in business.

Since its inception in July last year, the IPv6 for e-Business project has worked to provide a portal for next-generation network technology by aggregating information from a series of national roadshows, infrastructure assessments, and a "mapping" process to estimate the level of support among local businesses.

The project is a consortium of the local chapter of the IPv6Forum, ISOC-AU, AEEMA, Builders.NET, ADIESA, Australian Domain Authority. The federal government chipped in with a AUS$200,000 (£83,000) grant from the Department of Communications IT and the Arts.

Another key part of the project is the enabling activity which includes business case scenarios, an ROI evaluator, a transition checklist, and an easy access device (EAD).

This EAD is a prototype to allow IPv6 connectivity with a tunnel appliance for small businesses and home offices.

The "device" is a modified Ubuntu Linux distribution with open source IPv6 software loaded and configured with the aim of allowing straightforward, inexpensive IPv6 connectivity, without complex site-by-site deployments on an open standards server.

President of the IPv6Forum in Australia Michael Biber, an affiliate of the project, said the EAD was developed under contract and in the process of being made available to the public, but no timeframe has yet been set.

"Tunnel broker capability is already built into Windows Vista and Longhorn, and this open source tunnel broker enables people to experiment with IPv6 tunnels," Biber said. "If you are sitting in an office and don't have access to IPv6 you can use a broker to encapsulate Ipv6 traffic."

Biber said five systems have been built and deployed as gateways on small LANs providing an access gateway to the IPv6 world. One possible business application of end-to-end IPv6 connectivity between locations is the ability to do remote support on individual machines without the need for a VPN.

To do the integration work the project contracted independent developer Bart Steanes, who told Computerworld all GNU GPL software was used and no development required.

"It's low cost, readily available, and has the functionality required," Steanes said, adding the distribution took a few weeks and is being used on low-power VIA servers.

"IPv6 gives visibility of all devices as though they are on a LAN but across the WAN, but you need an appropriately configured firewall. We use Shorewall. This obsoletes the need for a VPN which does reduce complexity, but it's also a learning experience for people as IPv6 is a new addressing scheme."

Steanes said the system supports native encryption and "does make life easier", but the usual link bandwidth constraints still apply.

The IPV6 for e-business project, which was completed earlier this month, is now seeking another round of funding in the order of £75,000 from industry or government to take it through to the next level.

Biber said so far the project has been quite successful with a "steady increase" in the number of visitors to the site and more dialogue with industry and government organisations.

Advanced IPv6-enabled network AARNet CEO Chris Hancock, however, expressed doubts about the urgency of local uptake of the technology, labelling it "very slow".

"There don't appear to be too many drivers, incentives or compelling reasons for users to embrace IPv6," Hancock said, adding most use appears to be experimental or satisfying the curiosity of enthusiasts. When asked if AARNet is realising the benefits of IPv6, Hancock said there is very little or "perhaps nothing" it can achieve with IPv6 that cannot be achieved with IPv4.

"Perhaps other than [to] be prepared and in readiness for IPv6, which we clearly are," he said. "In fact, with the advent of NAT the pressure on IP [numbers] has been significantly reduced." Hancock believes businesses will not move until there are compelling business reasons for adopting and implementing IPv6.

Dr Ciprian Popoviciu, a technical leader at networking giant Cisco, said there is more interest in the technology but people have shifted away from the idea of a need for a killer app.

"IPv6 will be the base of large-scale networks and people are starting to use it as a tool to solve problems," Popoviciu said.

"For example, Comcast is the largest cable provider in the US and with the size of the network it ran out of private IP addresses. So it has been actively pursuing the preparation of cable networks for IPv6 deployment."

Comcast can use IPv6 to manage devices in its cable network, which Popoviciu said is a good example of using the technology as a solution to a practical problem.

Popoviciu said fresh estimates of 2011 to 2012 for large-scale transitions to IPv6 are more realistic than the previous estimate of 2009.