Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has issued a directive requiring all US government agencies to upgrade their public-facing Web sites and services by 30 September, 2012, to support IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol.
Kundra's memo mandates that agencies use native IPv6 instead of transition mechanisms that translate between IPv6 and the current standard, which is known as IPv4.
The Kundra memo also sets a second deadline of Sept. 30, 2014 for federal agencies to upgrade internal client applications that communicate with public Internet servers to use native IPv6. Each agency is required to designate an IPv6 transition manager to direct IPv6-related activities, and agencies must purchase network hardware and software that comply with the federal government's IPv6 testing process.
"The federal government is committed to the operational deployment and use of Internet Protocol version 6," the Kundra memo states, pointing out several initiatives including cloud computing, broadband deployment and smart grid technology that require the expanded address space offered by IPv6.
The Kundra memo says IPv6 is necessary to reduce the complexity of Internet services by eliminating the need for network address translation technologies, and that IPv6 will provide ubiquitous security services.
IPv6 will "enable the Internet to continue to operate efficiently through an integrated, well-architected networking platform and accommodate the future expansion of Internet-based services," the memo says.
Kundra released this memo in conjunction with an IPv6 workshop held by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday. The workshop featured high-profile executives from government, industry and Internet policymaking organizations who urged the federal government to set a deadline for IPv6-enabling its Web sites.
The workshop represented the first time the Obama Administration has given IPv6 any publicity in the 21 months it has been in office. Indeed, government insiders said Kundra didn't ask them about agencies' progress on IPv6 until last week, when he began preparing for NTIA's workshop.
IPv6 is the biggest upgrade in the 40-year history of the Internet. Forward-looking carriers and enterprises are deploying IPv6 because the Internet is running out of IP addresses using the current standard, known as IPv4.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices -- 2 to the 128th power.
About 94.5% of IPv4 address space has been allocated as of Sept. 3, 2010, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which delegates blocks of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to carriers and enterprises in North America. Experts say IPv4 addresses could run out as early as December but will certainly be gone by the end of 2011.
This is the second time the President's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established a mandate for federal agencies related to the deployment of IPv6. Back in 2005, the Bush Administration established and later met a deadline of June 2008 for all federal agencies to demonstrate IPv6 connectivity over their backbone networks.